Express & Star

The Tempest, Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford - review

There are some great moments in Gregory Doran's big, bold and technically ground-breaking production. You will probably never hear Prospero's "rough magic" speech, in which Shakespeare himself bids farewell to his craft, spoken with as much conviction and clarity as Simon Russell Beale brings to it.


It is a stirring moment, as is the often-cut masque scene which is presented here as a beautiful piece of opera.

It's a privilege, too, to be the first audience to witness this fusion of live theatre and real-time computer-generated imagery, courtesy of Intel and The Imaginarium Studios. At times, the stage is flooded with colour and figures that reminded me of Disney's 1940 classic, Fantasia.

But has so much technology distracted from the basics? The opening storm scene has actors shouting at each other across the whole width of the stage. It is confusing and chaotic and important words are lost.

Some of Russell Beale's earlier speeches seem hesitant. Jenny Rainsford as his teenage daughter Miranda needs to muster more girlish excitement on first seeing the dashing Ferdinand (Daniel Easton).

Mark Quartley is an athletic and appealing Ariel and Joe Dixon gives us a splendid Caliban, a monster doomed by his own bad genes; even as you shrink from his hideous form, you sympathise with him. There is some fine comic work from Tony Jayawardena as the drunken butler Stephano and Simon Trinder as the jester Trinculo.

The Tempest is at Stratford until January 21.

By Peter Rhodes

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