THEATRE REVIEW: The Tempest starring Simon Russell Beale

WORTH A LOOK?: ***

WHERE: Barbican Theatre

WHEN: 30/6, runs to 18/8

Simon Russell Beale is one of the finest actors of his generation and therefore it’s curious that he should choose to return to the Royal Shakespeare Company after 20 years in something quite so overcooked.

  • Read on for reasons including why cutting edge technology detracts from this

This production is staged in collaboration with Intel and in association with Imaginarium Studios and, for those looking for a visual bombardment of the senses, it doubtless will be as ‘groundbreaking’ as the hype would have it.

For us it had the feel of a lavish, yet amateur, pantomime with curious pauses as the live performers waited to get in synch with the admittedly impressive effects.

The problem with such a visual rollercoaster ride that leaves nothing to the imagination is that it detracts rather than enhances the story and, with a running time of 143 minutes, this is an abbreviated version of The Tempest that focuses on the comedy of the situation rather than its emotional heart.

Unsurprising perhaps then that it is James Hayes as Stephano and Simon Trinder as Trinculo who shine in minor roles as a drunken comedy double act in this epic tale of Prospero (Russell Beale, often looking lost among the effects and only occasionally able to grab the emotional spotlight from them), a magician, who whips up a literal storm to conjure up those who wronged him.

There are some fine performers here: we loved both Alison Arnopp (Spirit) and Jenny Rainsford (Miranda) in Dusty at the Charing Cross Theatre and in TV’s Fleabag respectively but the intensity of the technical wizardry means they have much to compete against. Miranda’s strength is nicely contrasted with Ferdinand’s (a game Daniel Easton).

This version of The Tempest would perhaps be the one to see if you’ve never witnessed any Shakespeare before and would rather watch a superhero movie than actually experience the real magic of live theatre and revel in the joy of the spoken word.

It’s a production seemingly designed for the cinema then rather than the theatre and with far less Russell Beale than we would have hoped for.

  • Picture via Facebook courtesy Barbican Theatre. Tickets
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2 comments

  1. Matthew · 22 Days Ago

    “This version of The Tempest would perhaps be the one to see if you’ve never witnessed any Shakespeare before and would rather watch a superhero movie”

    We’re taking the boys to see this on Saturday. Suspect they’ll love it then!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. mrmonstagigz · 18 Days Ago

    Interested to know what Team Wilkie make of it Matthew. A great introduction to Shakespeare it will be I promise.

    Like

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