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Have I found my perfect production of The Tempest?

Tempest-2012-19_541x361Went to Stratford Upon Shakespeare on Thursday having never seen a totally satisfying production of The Tempest mainly because either Prospero feels wrong or Miranda or their relationship. But happy to report that the RSC have nailed it, almost.

Jonathan Slinger is a stern but warm Prospero and Emily Taafe a plucky but innocent Miranda and, crucially for me, it feels like there is a genuine father-daughter fondness between the two of them. It made his change of heart from revenge to forgiveness, always a tricky scene if you've been a hard and aloof Prospero (Ralph Fiennes), far more believable.

Ariel was also superbly played by Sandy Grierson but with an interesting twist. Rather than spritely and ethereal he was in the main dressed identically to Prospero in a tatty suit almost as if he was the magician's own projection or maybe he just wanted to be like his master.  There is also a physical resemblance between the two actors which is clever casting, if it was a conscious decision.

The distressed floor board stage had sections missing and warped so that he and the other spirits of the isle could quickly appear and disappear, sometimes just popping their heads out as an unobserved presence.

Prospero's cell was a glass box at the back of the stage which looked a little out of place to start with but worked superbly, with clever lighting, as a vanishing (and reappearing) cabinet.

But while the Miranda-Prospero-Ariel triangle was perfectly done, Ferdinand (Soloman Israel) felt stiff and the courtiers a little bland. Sebastian was played by Kirsty Bushell affording the opportunity to have some great sexual tension between her and Antonio (Jonathan McGuiness) as they plot to kill Alonso (Jonathan McGuiness) and carve up the realm but it was sadly missed. 

However these are minor complaints and this is the best Tempest I have seen so far, really giving the sense that Prospero is conducting events - even the goddess scene felt in place and beautifully done. Not quite perfect but I'm going to give it four stars.

The Tempest runs in rep at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford Upon Avon until Oct 7.

* Of the new ensemble Emily Taafe is definitely on my list of ones to watch (move over Mariah Gale). Sandy Grierson, while not technically new as he has worked with the RSC on a couple of plays before, is also on my list and will be an actor I look out for.

Production shot of Prospero and Ariel by Simon Annand and you can see more on the Tempest page of the RSC website


Sargon Yelda who plays Adrian was also in The Emporer and Galilean which starred Andrew Scott who's was in the play Cock and TV series The Hour with Mr Whishaw.