by William Shakespeare.
Barbican (Silk Street Theatre) Silk Street EC2Y 8DS To 16 April 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.15pm Mat Sat 2pm.
Runs 2hr No interval.
TICKETS: 0845 120 7550.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 24 March.
Raises a storm in Shakespearean production.
From Cheek by Jowl’s Russian wing (in Russian), comes Declan Donnellan’s soviet-influenced Tempest. Nowhere more than in Mikhail Zhigalov’s Alonso, the usurping Duke now cast onto an island ruled by the man he helped overthrow.
As Igor Yasulovich’s proletarian Prospero tells their story to the daughter he’s raised since she was three, his enemies appear, brother Antonio a smoothly ruthless operator, Alonso an unsmiling General. Later, his vertical-palm salute and confession further recall the Soviet era, playing against the image of a show-trial, with amplified judges on high.
When Alonso’s son marries Prospero’s daughter Shakespeare’s classical goddesses offer abundance as soviet peasant-women, while men dance with scythes, backed by patriotic film of keen harvesters.
But Donnellan, fresh-thinking and provocative as always, works more widely. When Prospero (not wholly convincingly) interrupts the wedding-dance the houselights come-up, stage management appears and Ferdinand walks off. There are laughs.
But humour, though always purposeful, isn’t his strong suit. Though there’s amusing use of water, it tends to disrupt the pace of events.
Which, elsewhere is a strong point. Scenes elide; Andrey Kuzichev’s restrained Ariel becomes a sometimes recalcitrant log carried by Ferdinand. Live music (unlike pre-recorded) bounces in brief motives hinting at tunes; there’s fluid group action. Then, almost unnoticed, the stage becomes intensely concentrated.
Ideas create a dialogue within the action. Anya Khalilulina’s Miranda, raised among animals, reacts and moves like one, slithering between her lover and his father as they’re reunited, to claim and protect Ferdinand.
Her “brave new world” isn’t spoken, as often, innocently towards the ill-doing lords, but defiantly at Prospero. She’s an island person rather than daddy’s girl; when, having tied Caliban with rope, Prospero fastens a necklace on her, it seems to choke. She’s friends with Alexander Feklistov’s lovably ugly Caliban – his line about using her to people the island seems a shared joke, while she howls in agony at leaving him.
Finally, puzzled, alone, Ariel and Caliban make quiet contact in mutual solace. It’s a reminder Britain’s not the only country to have left an empire behind, and reveals how intricate relationships develop within a tightly-governed society.
Prospero: Igor Yasulovich.
Miranda: Anya Khalilulina.
Ariel: Andrey Kuzichev.
Caliban: Alexander Feklistov.
Alonso: Mikhail Zhigalov.
Sebastian: Pavel Kuzmin.
Antonio: Evgeny Samarin.
Ferdinand: Yan Ilves.
Gonzlo: Alexander Lenkov.
Trinculo: Ilya Illin.
Stephano: Sergey Koleshnya.
Boatswain: Gela Meskhi.
Master of the Ship: Maxim Onishchenko.
Francisco: Vadim Norshteyn.
Adrian: Sergey Zaytsev.
Director: Declan Donnellan.
Designer: Nick Ormerod.
Lighting: Kristina Hjelm.
Music: Dmitry Volkov.
Music Arranger: Maria Barskaya.
Choreographer: Konstantin Mishin.
Costume: Natalia Vedeneeva.
Literary consultant: Anya Kolesnikova.
Assistant director: Kirill Sbitnev.
Assistant choreographer: Irina Kashuba.