The TheatreguideLondon Review
RSC at The Roundhouse Summer 2012 and then Stratford
By far the most successful of the RSC's 'Shipwreck' season (with Twelfth Night and The Comedy of Errors), David Farr's Tempest delivers on every level, as pageant, as warm comedy, and as spiritual drama.
I knew something special was afoot when Ariel (Sandy Grierson) first appeared, as a virtual twin to Jonathan Slinger's Prospero, two thin bald men in identical tattered suits – such a brilliant conceit I can hardly believe that none of the dozens of other productions of this play I've seen have thought of it.
I later read designer Jon Bausor's programme note, in which he says the idea was to suggest Prospero's dictatorial nature by putting his attending spirits in uniforms. But surely every audience member will get the same impression I did, of Ariel as a projection or reflection of something within Prospero.
And since the dramatic backbone of the play lies in Prospero's becoming able to give up his magic and rejoin the human community, his farewell to Ariel at the end is here a touching visual symbol of giving up a part of himself.
Certainly Jonathan Slinger shows us a very understandable and sympathetic Prospero, a naturally mild-mannered man driven close to madness by injustice and isolation and saved at the last moment by the rediscovery of the ability to forgive and become ordinary again.
Sandy Grierson's Ariel is refreshingly forceful and unfey without being too bolshie, while Amer Hlehel's quite human Caliban gives some force to his claim to being misused.
Stephano and Trinculo are usually two of the dreariest clowns in all of Shakespeare, but Bruce MacKinnon and Felix Hayes actually make them funny and rather sweet in their stupidity, while Emily Taaffe and Solomon Israel are appropriately young, attractive and essentially faceless as the lovers.
The masque and the other bits of spectacle and stage magic are for once quite lovely rather than the usual dreary interruptions in the play, so that this Tempest is enchanting for beginners – my audience had several school groups with nary a fidget – while rich enough in new and evocative touches to capture the most hardened veteran.
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Review - The Tempest - RSC at Roundhouse 2012
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