Laura Turner’s The Buried Moon re-imagines The Tempest‘s Miranda and Caliban as two wayward British teenagers growing up in the Lincolnshire fens in the 2010s. Taking close inspiration from Shakespeare’s text, it’s a setting that works surprisingly well. Framing Miranda and Caliban’s history as a fundamentally tragic one and shedding light on what it potentially might have been, The Buried Moon manages to simultaneously demonize and sympathize with Caliban, while complicating Miranda beyond simply being a virtuous maiden.
In this version, Miranda (Georgina Hellier) has just moved to Lincolnshire with her physicist father, following the death of her mother. Living on a crumbling old house and teased by the girls at school, Miranda is an outcast and exiles herself to the marshlands. Finding a kindred spirit in the strange, scarfaced, marshland dwelling and eel-hunting Cal (Michael Kinsey the two become fast friends over their shared solitude. But as anyone with knowledge of the original characters know, the two end up with a tempestuous relationship that is anything but cordial…
Utilizing only a small part of The Rose Playhouse, The Buried Moon created an intimate performance space that evoked the mysterious marshlands. With a single blue tent and limited, natural looking props squeezed onto the small stage, there was certainly a sense of claustrophobia and entrapment in the marsh, emphasizing the closeness of Cal and Miranda’s relationship and its status as a safe home away from the evils of society, their own private island. Small as it was, director Jake Smith also makes use of the greater Rose Playhouse space, treating the unused space as a foul muddy bog, home to slithering eels.
Hellier and Kinsey share an incredible chemistry onstage that starts off extremely promising. With a meet cute that begins with gentle teasing before quickly blossoming into a genuine, heartfelt bond, Cal acts as Miranda’s confidant and listening ear as they trade dark fairytales and keep each other company every Friday evening. It’s almost inevitable that you’d be rooting for this warped Beauty and the Beast style relationship that develops; Cal as the misjudged boy with a heart of gold and Miranda as the weird girl who learns to love herself and get over her grief. Kinsey excels at delivering an uneasy trust of Cal, a modern teenage Byronic hero, embracing the dark allure of his character while expressing a deep air of vulnerability as he seeps in and out of the set’s long shadows. Hellier’s Miranda is strong-willed and assertive, likable from start to end and performs with confidence, capturing every subtle nuance and just the right reaction in each scene.
Jake Smith really brings out the teenage angst in this play, and manages to balance teasing out the beauty of Turner’s poetic language in Hellier’s lines with the casual slang tossed around when Miranda and Cal interact, making mention of selfies and Harry Potter sound natural in conversation. Although not much actually happens in The Buried Moon, it is Miranda and Cal’s doomed friendship that keeps audiences on their toes, a tug of war that toys with our emotions and ultimately, devastates. Just as everything goes swimmingly, Turner pulls the rug from under us and reveals Cal’s true disturbing, monstrous, nature and unbridled id, and one cannot help but feel devastated at the shattered remains of what could have been.
Adding a surprising amount of depth and layers to The Tempest, Laura Turner has crafted a shining example of modernized Shakespeare done right, exploring the new themes of guilt and loneliness in the modern British world and making these teens much more relatable than before. Aimed to strike a piercing blow right through the heart, The Buried Moon capitalizes on its dynamic duo’s strong acting chops and capable direction from Jake Smith to deliver an indelible, dark parable of friendship and growing up.