Review: Simon Russell Beale and John Simm in The Hothouse, Trafalgar Studios
Dame Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw talk Peter and Alice at Q&A

Review: The Tempest with Roger Allam and Colin Morgan

Roger-Allan-and-Colin-Mor-010May have mentioned in the past that I don't like The Globe and had vowed never to see anything there again. Well, that was until Colin Morgan was cast as Ariel.

I've followed Colin's career since he played Vernon in Vernon God Little at the Young Vic, fresh out of drama school and long before he became the BBC's Saturday night wizard. Said role having taken up most of his time for the last five years, stage work has been a bit thin on the ground, hence breaking my vow.

So was it worth it? Well, I'm going to write separately about the whole Globe and 'first time as a groundling' experience so this is purely about the play. And the first thing to say is that although it is not without its flaws it's probably the most rounded Tempest I've seen - and I'm quite picky, as it is a favourite play.

For me it worked because Roger Allam's Prospero had the right mix of powerful deposed Duke and Dad and Miranda (Jessie Buckley) wasn't too childish or too worldly. In fact she had a nice dose of teenager about her which Prospero's played to. There was a certain amount of charm to their relationship that made it endearing. Throw into the mix a slightly awkward teen Ferdinand (Joshua James) and the young lovers became quite amusing rather than sickly or, as I've sometimes seen, unbelievable.

It also worked because it had a Caliban (James Garnon) who was bursting with personality, stealing pretty much every scene he was in. He was cheeky with a grumpy edge spitting, hissing and threatening when disgruntled. Garnon brilliantly improvised through any disruption caused by helicopters or planes flying over (and there were quite a few). He would stop mid-sentance and cock his head to one side and look to see where the noise was coming from. The others would join in and it became a running joke, listening to the 'mysterious sounds' of Prospero's island.

And then there was Colin's Ariel. There is so much you can do with Prospero's sprite and here a muscular Morgan had what looked like newly-forming feathers on his torso. From waist down he wore a stiff skirt which was open at the front, revealing Jacobean-esque pantaloons and finished off with Ugg-type boots. I'll admit I'm not quite sure what concept the costume designer was going for but add in the porcelain make up and it looked a bit sci-fi/alien.

Performance-wise his Ariel was like a child in an adult's body. Prospero chides him with exasperation rather than anger for forgetting, once again, how he had been freed. Morgan's muscles are put to good use with climbs up pieces of set and lots of hanging off stuff monkey-bar style. The harpie scene is a particularly imaginative use of costume and jumping stilt shoes (google it). Overall I'm not entirely sure Ariel the gymnast quite worked for me but it certainly added an energy.

Where Morgan was at his best was in his reactions, when he was causing chaos for Prospero or commanding the other spirits. His delivery sometimes felt a little recited but with seasoned Shakespeare actors like Allam on stage the bar is set very high.

The first couple of scenes with the stranded nobles are always difficult to pull off and with so much levity elsewhere in the play these did fall a little flat. However, all in all it was an enjoyable and entertaining production and ticked a lot of my Tempest boxes.

Production shot: Tristram Kenton

Stan recommends:

The Hothouse, Trafalgar Studios

The Play That Goes Wrong, Trafalgar Studios 2

Orpheus, BAC

The Weir, Donmar Warehouse

Othello, National Theatre

The Winslow Boy, Old Vic