Royal Shakespeare Theatre
24th July 2012
A solid production of one of Shakespeare’s later masterpieces, David Farr’s The Tempest was strong in its staticity, effectively showcasing Jonathan Slinger’s fiercesome Prospero and allowing numerous other acting talents to stretch their legs on what was a carefully constructed and well-thought-out interpretation of the tragicomic text.
Bruce Mackinnon and Felix Hayes were again the efficient clowns of the piece, having stolen the show in A Comedy of Errors as the Dromio twins, they again had the audience in stitches with their impeccable comic timing and an uncanny ability to make Shakespearean text sound colloquial and everyday. Sandy Grierson’s Ariel was so fluid in his movements that he could have been a liquitab, and Slinger’s Prospero was volatile and thrilling enough to make anticipation of his Hamlet next season grow ever larger. It felt at times almost as though Hamlet was playing Prospero; indeed, aside from the maturity and measure in his final, dazzling, epilogue, Slinger stomped his way through the play somewhat petulantly, teetering on the edge of dramaturgical control.
Jon Bausor’s set – ever versatile in its use for all three selections in The Shipwreck Trilogy – was particularly successful in the design of Prospero’s cave. A sometimes see-through partition of the stage that could serve to represent anything that wasn’t the carnivalesque island itself – the place of magic, the empty space – and had all manner of uses, as a home, for a flashback, a man at work and the ships out at sea.
My main criticism for the piece was that despite many brave decisions to have very little going on in any scene – a commendable act in such a complicated play – the aerial work (oddly enough) felt very out of place. A couple of Ariel descents and quite a lot of glitter in the conjuring scene appeared incongruous with the otherwise sparse direction; perhaps an unnecessary jump into spectacle in a play which focuses so much upon imagination. This aside, a play of gravitas and precision: the real figurehead of The Shipwreck Trilogy.