Adrian Noble’s production of The Tempest, first seen at 2011’s San Diego Shakespeare Festival, is one of the most accessible and heart-warming interpretations to come to the modern stage.
Accepted as[Shakespeare’s last work, it shows usurped Duke Prospero and daughter MIranda living on a magical island with spirits and monsters. Twelve years on, Prospero creates a tempest that shipwrecks his usurping brother and the King’s retinue onto the island, allowing him to rebalance the books and marry his daughter to the King’s son. By the end, forgiveness and harmony are the order of the day.
Perhaps nodding to speculation that Shakespeare originally planned a musical, there are several big “numbers” here - songs familiar and new. Like other elements of the production, Shaun Davey’s score is filmic, the music a character in its own right.
Tim Pigott-Smith is a kindly, sympathetic Prospero: a gentle (rather than jealous) god, and loving father, majestic and enjoyable. Iris Roberts claims Miranda for her own - no whimsy here; rather a woman free of courtly nicety, honest, fair and, it feels, true to Shakespeare’s intention. Comic duo Trinculo and Stephano are beautifully pitched: Geoffrey Freshwater’s Stephano is spot-on as the butler-cum-god and Mark Hadfield as Trinculo is a master of the comic tightrope, himself usurped in friendship and status by Matt Ryan’s Caliban.
Ralph Funicello’s set and Alan Burrett’s lighting combine with the soundscape to lull you into a dream-like glow, a blue hue of synaptic magic, where spirits will play and whence - ultimately - humans must go.
This is a show for the whole family, with no dark corners, but plenty of humanity.