The Tempest (RSC)
is an enigmatic play and almost impossible to pin it down but
David Farr’s elegant and melancholic production does much engages
with both the play and the audience to often brilliant effect.
His deeply considered production uses
the simplest of means to convey some very subtle moments of emotion
and shifts in tone. He exploits the Royal Shakespeare Theatre to the
fullest – delivering the magic of the play with often breath-taking
Jonathan Slinger is magnificent as
Prospero. His is a mercurial interpretation: he switches mood from
stern, chiding school teacher to playful manipulator with consummate
skill. He is very contained and precise, using his voice with
pinpoint accuracy to make every line count. It is really a
performance that makes you view the character with fresh eyes. He
alone makes the production worth seeing.
are Sandy Grierson as a moving Ariel who matches the physicality of
his master while also revelling in the more fantastical elements of
his character. The relationship with Prospero is full of longing,
regret and genuine affection – it is almost heart-breaking at
times. Felix Hayes and Bruce Mackinnon (Trinculo and Stephano)
mine their comic scenes with great skill.
As with the rest of this season, the
set by Jon Bausor is outstanding. The use of a plastic box for
Prospero’s cell is inspired and creates some memorable images. It
has been said that the new theatre prohibits the potential for great
scenic design that was possible in the old theatre but Bausor’s
work proves quite the opposite. Truly outstanding.
There are some problems. The opening
scene – the tempest itself – is delivered with very distorted
voices making it nearly impossible to pick out any of the lines. And
I was un-convinced by the relationship between Miranda and Ferdinand
which felt less well developed than some of the other partnerships on
But this is an understated and
beautifully judged piece of directing with moments that I will
treasure. Not perfect – but the best thing you will see in the
Royal Shakespeare Theatre this season.