Patrick Stewart plays Prospero in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s transfer of {The Tempest::L01915847393}, which opened at the Novello Theatre last Wednesday - 28 February 2007 (previews from 22 February) - for a run to 24 March 2007 as part of the company’s West End winter residency (See News, 25 Aug 2006). The cast also features Critics Circle best newcomer and Ian Charleson winner Mariah Gale as Miranda, as well as Julian Bleach (Ariel), Finbar Lynch (Alonso) and John Light (Caliban). Headlong artistic director Rupert Goold directs the production, which has been transported to an arctic wasteland in Giles Cadle’s set.

Overnight critics were unanimous in their praise of the production, and in particular the central performance of Stewart as Prospero, who, they said, displayed a range of emotions from rage and despair to joy, and was deeply moving. They were also impressed with the other members of the company, and found Goold's interpretation to be very inventive, despite veering towards the flashy and unbelievable at times.

  • Maxwell Cooter on (4 stars) – "The opening storm scene is one of the best I’ve seen - I was almost feeling seasick myself.... there’s a genuine poignancy at the close, Stewart almost choking back a sob on 'drown my book'. The most compelling feature of the production, however, is Julian Bleach’s astonishing Ariel. Looking like a cross between Johnny Rotten and Gormenghast’s Steerpike, he presents himself as a much more commanding spirit than is usual – indeed they are moments in his scenes with Prospero where we’re not quite sure who is the master and who the servant – quite telling in a play where the notion of power is illusory. There’s an equally good performancefrom Mariah Gale as a gauche Miranda, the first time I’ve ever seen an actor treat the character for what she is: an awkward and naïve 15-year-old.... This is an imaginative, visually stunning, provocative production.... there are some disappointments: the granting of Ariel’s freedom seems almost an afterthought, the Stephano/Trinculo interludes left me completely cold, and theirs and Caliban’s putative revolt seemed to belong to another play altogether. But the plusses far outweigh the minuses: this is a Tempest like no other."

  • Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph –“Goold's RSC staging is so exciting, his vision of the play so powerfully emotional…. The opening storm sequence, sombrely announced by the BBC shipping forecast and then observed through a porthole, is staged as a bravura piece of physical theatre, with spewing, dinner-jacketed toffs and rough mariners buffeted violently about in a tiny ship's radio room…. The production's chief glory, though, is Patrick Stewart's magnificent Prospero. He plays the role with tremendous power and depth of feeling, and delivers the beautiful verse with superb authority…. Stewart chillingly captures the bitterness and cruelty that consume Prospero, so easily wrongly played as little more than a wise, slightly testy old conjuror…. Mariah Gale's disconcerting Miranda, for all Prospero's protestations of love, has a subservient, automaton-like quality that has surely been brought on by her father's authoritarian nature…. there is a tremendous sense in Stewart's performance of an icy heart that cracks even as it begins to melt. It's painful - you sense that once Prospero has returned home and seen his daughter married, this suddenly lonely old man won't live much longer, but, as with the redemption of Lear, it's a cost that is absolutely worth paying.”

  • Nicholas de Jongh in the Evening Standard (4 stars) – “The contrary staging works wonders. Giles Cadle's painterly set, with its snow-fall, icy tracts of land, slate-grey skies and angry winds, reflects the frozen state of Prospero's heart and mind…. Stewart, tattoos on bald head, kitted out in furs and what resembles an animal skeleton, makes Prospero a master of cruelty and violence. He keeps John Light's much improved, shaggy Caliban, with his air of resentful confusion, shackled like a dangerous dog. He battles hard and furiously with himself not just to surrender the island but to discover in himself the virtue of forgiveness…. Some weaknesses remain. The drunken butler and jester are played for dull farce. Nick Court's wooden Ferdinand and Maria Gale's glazed, doll-like Miranda, who suffer weird oriental, pre-nuptial rituals instead of that marriage masque, make dreary lovers. Yet from a terrific opening scene of shipwreck, heralded by a shipping forecast of hurricanes, with below-deck, peep-hole views of alarm, Goold's Tempest makes real theatrical magic.”

  • Sam Marlowe in the Times (4 stars) –"Giles Cadle’s designs have the jagged elemental quality of a Beuys sculpture — but he and Goold lash the harsh power of their icy wilderness to a lush theatricality. The opening, in which we hear an ominous shipping forecast and glimpse the tempest-tossed courtiers through a porthole, is wonderfully inventive.... The ruler of this inhospitable realm is Patrick Stewart’s mesmerising Prospero.... Stewart gives a rivetingly complex performance.... he is an intensely touching father who, dabbing a moistened handkerchief to the cheek of his daughter, Mariah Gale’s witty, wondering Miranda, tenderly prepares her for her first encounter with Ferdinand. He is also despotic, and capable of childish spite... Finally... he is desperately moving..... The production as a whole is a serious enchantment, as capable of warming the heart and the intellect as of freezing the marrow."

    - by Caroline Ansdell