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The Tempest (Globe)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Jessie Buckley as Miranda & Roger Allam as Prospero (Photo: Marc Brenner)

How reluctant is Prospero to give up his power? He talks of abjuring his magic to embrace his former position but how easily does a man with the power to raise storms and control the spirits relinquish that authority for earthly baubles?

Jeremy Herrin's production of The Tempest, The Globe's season opener, proposes Prospero as a man in thrall to his books - Roger Allam's mellifluous tones suggest a man wholly in love with learning; there's a delicacy in his scenes with Colin Morgan's fleet-of-foot Ariel, a touch of tenderness. What's missing is the roughness: how did such a bookish man enslave Caliban and keep his Ariel in thrall?

But if the authority is missing there are other delights. When Prospero speaks of "some vanity of mine art", he's not exaggerating. This is someone who relishes his trickery, gleefully joining in the goddesses' dance and there's an underlying melancholy, his valedictory speech is steeped with regret.

There's particularly strong support from James Garnon's Caliban bristling with anger at his lowly position - though one feels that it would have been powerful against a more authoritarian Prospero.

Even better is the pairing of Joshua James and Jessie Buckley as Ferdinand and Miranda. They make for a delightful couple, brimming with joy as they taste the delights of first love. James is particularly strong, he comes across as a slack-jawed toff, more like a refugee from a Wodehouse book than a prince, but he mines the comic potential of Ferdinand as well as the romantic intensity.

Caliban (James Garnon), Stephano (Sam Cox) & Trinculo (Trevor Fox). Photo: Marc Brenner

In fact, Herrin's production is particularly strong on comedy; there can't be many productions of this play that produce so many laughs. Yet strangely, the comic scenes of Sam Cox's Stephano and Trevor Fox's Trinculo are rather flat.

It doesn't start well - the opening scene is almost completely inaudible thanks to the thunder effects and the Globe's harsh acoustics. The vast space of the theatre detracts from Max Jones' rather sparse design. This leads to a lack of intimacy, particularly in the final scene where Ferdinand and Miranda's appearance lacks emotional punch.

It's a curious mix: some excellent verse speaking, some fine comedy and an attractive young couple at the heart but the darker elements are missing entirely - it's a simplistic reading but one greatly appreciated by the Globe audience.

- Maxwell Cooter


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