The Tempest, Globe Theatre, May 2012Posted on 4 May 2013
This Jeremy Herrin production grabs our attention with a great bang at the start … followed by the storm at sea with passengers and crew swaying and falling on the tilting deck of a ship, despite the fixed stage. Imagination? Indeed. And my lasting impression is the contrast between the bewitched characters, with their ready words from the courtly world of frivolity and deceit, and the magic inherent in Roger Allam’s hesitant and vulnerable Prospero. The words are Shakespeare’s but Allam reaches for them as if they appear to him for the first time. At the end he may achieve his goals of apparent reconciliation, along with a return from exile and a successful marriage for his daughter, but he loses a world he has created, and as he very quietly tells us at the end: when he returns to Milan, “Every third thought shall be my grave”.
His sorcery and serious soliloquies must be set against the machinations of fools, and the folly of clowns, with Sam Cox as Stephano the star of the show in this sense. His hubris, his accent and his sense of comic timing formed a merry counterblast to the depth of Prospero, making it amusingly absurd that he should contemplate murdering and supplanting him. His partners in folly, the colourfully wild Caliban of James Garnon and the tiredly inebriated Trinculo of Trevor Fox, brilliantly helped offset the mighty men who are really such dullards. The audience loved it, and Trinculo’s backwards fall into the crowd after Stephano bids him return to the stage was a delight.
Gentle music by Stephen Warbeck for a spirit world in which the sprightly figure of Ariel was gracefully portrayed by Colin Morgan. His ability to move by swinging like a monkey, and his appearance as a harpy, were extraordinary. Pip Donaghy made a worthily honest counsellor as Gonzalo, and Jessie Buckley and Joshua James, as Miranda and Ferdinand, formed a suitably callow young couple, demonstrating their attraction for one another.
Playing The Tempest on a stage open to the sky on a beautiful sunny afternoon is a feat in itself and Stephano, Trinculo and Caliban in particular made excellent use of an occasional low-flying aircraft. Their magically entertaining performances, contrasted with Roger Allam’s intriguing mix of secret knowledge and uncertain vulnerability, gave a fine start to the Globe’s 2013 season.
This production gives huge clarity to Shakespeare’s work, and performances continue until August 18 — for more details click here.