THE TEMPEST To 21 August.


by William Shakespeare.

The Old Vic The Cut SE1 8NB In rep to 21 August 2010.
Runs 2hr 15min No interval.

TICKETS: 0844 871 7628 (£3 transaction fee – does not apply to supporters of The Old Vic).
Review: Carole Woddis 23June.

The Bridge collapses in near-silence.
There’s every reason why Sam Mendes should have thought As You Like It and The Tempest obvious companion pieces. Both focus on warring brothers, power usurped and parallel worlds of healing.

In The Tempest programme, Mendes (quoting from Ted Hughes) connects the earlier play’s Forest of Arden and Prospero’s island, saying how the one has metamorphosed, after the battering of `the tragedies’, into the other – a forsaken place inhabited by witches and wild creatures i.e. the lyrical and pastoral giving way, over time, to death and in Prospero’s final human acts, forgiveness and reconciliation.

There is also the implication, by Hughes and therefore Mendes, of links between Jaques in As You Like It, departing to follow a religious existence, and the resigned Prospero. As Mendes puts it, the plays are designed and conceived as a single gesture, a single journey.

Certainly Stephen Dillane plays it that way. World-weary as Jaques, by the time we reach The Tempest, his voice has dropped to a whisper, energy seemingly sucked out of him. Ideologically the idea is exciting but from a theatrical point of view, Dillane’s dying fall all but dies on its feet.

Surprisingly too, there is a sentimentalised soft-centredness about his Prospero quite out of keeping with a character described – and sometimes experienced as – a tyrant. Mendes too ventures on the maudlin side with a home video episode of pre-banishment idyllic family bliss, where Miranda as a toddler poses before the camera. Dillane presides over this in battered garden-hat, eyes closed in beneficent smile before flying into the rage of `our revels now are ended’.

As for the colonialist theme, Ron Cephas Jones’s Caliban gives a nodding hint in the direction of the treatment of American-Indians by early `New World’ settlers, augmented by a very British collection of conspiring Dukes and brothers shipwrecked by Prospero’s omniscience.

But overall, this `sequential’ Tempest lacks theatrical magic or transformative power. “The isle is full of noises,” says Caliban. “Be not afeared.” The problem is, intelligent though the intention, in formative terms, the production fails to beguile or give food for thought. Disappointing.

Prospero: Stephen Dillane.
Ariel: Christian Camargo.
Caliban: Ron Cephas Jones.
Boatswain: Ross Waiton.
Alonso: Jonathan Lincoln Fried.
Gonzalo: Alvin Epstein.
Sebastian: Richard Hansell.
Antonio: Michael Thomas.
Miranda: Juliet Rylance.
Ferdinand: Edward Bennett.
Adrian: Aaron Krohn.
Trinculo: Anthony O’Donnell.
Stephano: Thomas Sadoski.
Iris: Michelle Beck.
Ceres: Jenni Barber.
Juno: Ashlie Atkinson.

Director: Sam Mendes.
Designer: Tom Piper.
Costume: Catherine Zuber.
Lighting: Paul Pyant.
Sound: Simon Baker for Autograph.
Music: Mark Bennett.
Music Director: Stephen Bentley-Klein.
Choreographer: Josh Prince.
Hair/Wigs Design: Tom Watson.
Fight director: Rick Sordelet.

Co-commissioned by and produced in association with Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), Neal Street, Claire Béjanin, Centro Niemeyer, Holland Festival, Hong Kong Arts Festival, Ruhrfestspiele Recklinghausen, Singapore Repertory Theatre & Theatre Marigny, Paris.

2010-06-27 13:52:06

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