The Tempest by William Shakespeare. The Jermyn Street Theatre, 16B Jermyn Street, London SW1 to 4 April 2020. 4****. William Russell

The Tempest
By William Shakespeare.
Jermyn Street Theatre, 26B Jermyn Street, London SW1Y 6SJ to 4 April 2020 & Theatre Royal,Bath 7 – 11 April 2020.
Mon – Sat 7.30pm. Mat Tues & Sat 2.30pm
Runs 2hr 30 mins. One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7287 2835.
Review: William Russell 13 March.
Mellifluous, quixotic and rather more benign than some Michael Pennington is an impressive and dignified Prospero in Tom Littler’s extremely handsome production of The Tempest. Yet again the ever ambitious Jermyn Street theatre is punching above its weight. Seeing Pennington is not, however, the sole reason for enjoying the production. There is an enchanting Ariel from Whitney Kehinde, a desert island nymph with a wicked soul, and a stand out double turn from Tam Williams who plays both Ferdinand and Caliban – a real beauty and the beast affair. It may have been the exigencies of small scale theatre production casting but equally it does add resonance to the two stories, the spoilt beautiful young man and the spoiled outcast deprived of his heritage by Prospero.
The designers Neil Irish and Anett Black have come up with a brilliant way of allowing the necessary transformations to take place, dressing Ferdinand in his pyjamas under which must be the monster’s rags and, pyjamas off, turning beauty into beast with a kind of Balaclava helmet head dress. The other impressive thing about the production is that the comics are funny – Trinculo and Stephano (Peter Bramhill and Richard Derrington) getting blind drunk as they tour the island on which they have been shipwrecked and where they come across Caliban are clowns you watch and laugh at and with. This is a singular achievement as all too often in Shakespeare on wishes to avert one’s eyes from the catastrophic mugging praying it will be all over soon – rather like watching you know who of musical hall fame, no names, no pack drill for once.
Littler has also turned Miranda (Kirsty Bushell) into a much tougher girl than usual – the far from bandbox fresh, this being an island existence without all mod coms, Miranda is clearly going to keep Ferdinand in his place once the wedding knot is tied. Confronted with men she becomes most intrigued in the possibilities quite apart from whatever there may be with the one she has to hand. Add a statuesque and stately Gonzalo from Lynn Farleigh and the result is an evening of great pleasures.
Pennington started off slightly tentatively on press night, but Friday the thirteenth apart, what with the virus warnings and people not turning up to sold out previews it was understandable – but as the play progressed it all settled down beautifully. Staging the play in this tiny theatre is in a sense a storm in a teacup, but it is a fine production with some memorable performances and any night watching Michael Pennington is a night well spent.
Prospero: Michael Pennington.
Miranda: Kirsty Bushell.
Ariel: Whitney Kehinde.
Caliban: Tam Williams.
Alonso: Jim Findley.
Gonzalo: Lynn Farleigh.
Sebastian: Peter Bramhill.
Antonio: Richard Derrington.
Trinculo: Peter Bramhill.
Stephano: Richard Derrington.

Director: Tom Littler.
Designers: Neil Irish & Anett Black.
Lighting Designer: William Reynolds.
Composer & Sound Designer: Max Pappenheim.
Movement Director: Julia Cave.
Production Photographs: Robert Workman.

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