The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings





Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants









Free Updates
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp London London Review
The Tempest

For 'tis a chronicle of day by day, not a relation for breakfast.
---- Prospero
The Tempest
Julian Bleach as Ariel and Patrick Stewart as Prospero
(Photo: Manuel Harlan)
Rupert Goold's Tempest is a visual fest with a distinctive and innovative aesthetic. The play opens as a shipping forecast predicts stormy weather in northern climes (although foregoing mention of the wizardry which has engineered it). A picture of a ship's radio is plastered across the curtain, with its speaker opening as a cramped porthole through which the eponymous storm is shown. Surrounding them are projected nauseatingly rough waves. In this way, the audience see a glimpse of frantic claustrophobia and panic of a crew overwhelmed by seemingly a fatal force.

The island itself is an icy wasteland, subject to blizzards and snowstorms. In other words, this is very different from the beachy if desolate representations we normally see. In so inhospitable a place, it is obvious that the shipwrecked are truly destitute and Prospero's exile especially harsh. Antonio's quip that the island has everything 'save means to live' is humourlessly accurate.

The only habitation, Prospero's cell, is a ramshackle wooden shack with a rusty barrel for a hearth and heavily befurred bunk beds. It grows more lopsided until by the final scene it is half submerged in the ground.

The spirits of the island look like Inuit natives. The masque performed by the three goddesses for the newly betrothed Miranda and Ferdinand is portrayed like an indigenous, primaeval marriage rite with incomprehensible, harmonious chanting. The song's tempo increases and, in a breathtaking vision, Prospero's enemies all enter the scene. This is a wonderfully baffling sequence until it is revealed that Ariel has interfered to remind his master of the plan in hand.

Ariel is, in fact, the most astounding element of this stylised production. Fresh from Shockheaded Peter, Julian Bleach is a fabulously menacing Ariel, with his tall, angular body dressed in Adams Family garb, and a corpse-pale face. Slinking around the stage in spine-chilling fashion, even Prospero is frightened of his ghastly-looking servant. At one point, he emerges from a body of seal, bloodied and with skeletal bird wings, like some sort of demonic phoenix, to deliver madness upon Prospero's enemies. When finally released from servitude, he spontaneously combusts. It is an amazing coup to portray the 'brave spirit' in so sinister a way and he even makes Ferdinand's exclamation 'Hell is empty and all the devils are here' a perfectly reasonable conjecture!

However, Rupert Goold has also proved himself adept at getting fine performances with more traditional casting. Mariah Gale is a Miranda to define the part with the sincere, direct gaucherie of a girl brought up in utter isolation. Finbar Lynch was also outstanding as Alonso the King of Naples, with a charismatic stage presence and ability to convey a man brooding for the loss of a son yet used to his power and prestige over his subjects.

The only disappointing element of this production is that which will draw many people to it: Patrick Stewart. As Prospero, he is passable but a bit mediocre. Although good at delivering some lines with wit, his change from vindictive bitterness to humanity and forgiveness was not particularly moving or convincing.

Nevertheless, on the strength of this Tempest, it is clear that Rupert Goold is a director to watch. He has here managed to create a fresh version of a well-known play which, for all its innovation, does not contradict but actually explicates the text. In this way, his originality never feels gimmicky. Full of promise, Goold has shown he has a bold eye for cool yet relevant stylisation.

Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Rupert Goold

Starring: Patrick Stewart, Julian Bleach, Finbar Lynch
With: Mariah Gale, John Light, Ken Bones, Nick Court, John Hopkins, James Hayes, Craig Gazey, Joseph Alessi, Chris Jarman, Edmund Kingsley, Paul Barnhill, Allyson Brown, Golda Rosheuvel, Emma Jay Thomas, Ravi Aujla, Rob Carroll, Luke Neal, David Rubin
Set Design: Giles Cadle
Costume Design: Nicky Gillibrand
Lighting: Paul Anderson
Music and Sound: Adam Cork
Video Design: Lorna Heavey
Movement: Michael Ashcroft
Music director: Bruce O'Neil
Running time: Two hours forty minutes with one interval
Box Office: 0870 609 1110
Booking at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre to 12th October 2006
Reviewed by Charlotte Loveridge based on 9th August 2006 performance at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre Stratford Upon Avon, Warwickshire (Rail Stratford Upon Avon)
London Theatre Tickets
Lion King Tickets
Billy Elliot Tickets
Mary Poppins Tickets
Mamma Mia Tickets
We Will Rock You Tickets
Theatre Tickets
London Theatre Walks

Peter Ackroyd's  History of London: The Biography

London Sketchbook

tales from shakespeare
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.
Our Review

©Copyright 2006, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from