Tag Archives: Rachael Nanyonjo



UK Tour

MOBY DICK at the Royal and Derngate Theatre


“It is one of the finest pieces of theatre I have seen”

Simple8 present an ambitious adaptation (by Sebastian Armesto) of Herman Melville’s epic 1851 adventure, directed by Jesse Jones. There is a minimal set (designer Kate Bunce) of scaffolding on either side of the stage. Through the haze can be discerned a cache of musical instruments – fiddle, cello, dulcimer, drum.

Ishmael (Mark Arends) – a well-spoken, well-dressed schoolmaster – sets the scene. He has come to Nantucket to join a whaling ship, just for the experience. As he moves from bar to bar, he hears talk of the mysterious one-legged Captain Ahab, and the name Moby Dick, anathema to many, whispered in hushed tones. Overnight, Ishmael befriends the gentle savage Queequeg (Tom Swale), and together they join the whaling ship Pequod, fatefully chosen at random.

Now the story can start in earnest. The stage is transformed as the brilliant ensemble, singing and playing throughout, builds an impression of the ship using just wooden planks and ropes. A life at sea is recreated – swabbing the deck, sharing some rum, singing songs. If much of the period dialogue is somewhat stilted, the ensemble excels at their dumbshow set-pieces. The crew man the capstan, turning the imaginary wheel with cries of heave and haul, the efforts of their hard work clear to see. A beautiful rendition of a sailing ballad is heard (Jonathan Charles musical director) as the backcloth shines in green and blue reflecting on the romance of the sea (Johanna Town lighting designer).

And then the spell is broken by the sighting of the crew’s first whale. A most brilliantly conceived and executed scene ensues. The crew row out to chase the whale, to subsequently haul it in and demonstrably kill it. The stage is flooded with red light to emphasize the bloody nature of the deed. It is one of the finest pieces of theatre I have seen.

The narrative, as in the novel, is driven by Ishmael and Mark Arends gives a towering performance in this central role – quietly spoken but assured. Captain Ahab (Guy Rhys) does a lot of shouting – the mantra is “Kill Moby Dick” – but we don’t get to the bottom of his obsession beyond that of having lost a leg. The well-spoken Hannah Emanuel gives rather a too light touch in the important role of Mr Starbuck who is the only crew member able to stand up to Ahab. Something more appropriately rougher is provided by the first mates (James Newton & William Pennington). But this is ultimately an ensemble piece with music and movement (Rachael Nanyonjo movement director) central to the storytelling and this talented cast of actor-musicians are excellent throughout. Special mention too for the cellist whose imitative sounds of whale music, especially during the final chase, is so central to the effectiveness and poignancy of the scenes.

MOBY DICK at the Royal and Derngate Theatre as part of UK tour

Reviewed on 10th April 2024

by Phillip Money

Photography by Manuel Harlan





Previously reviewed at this venue:

THE FROGS | ★★½ | January 2024
2:22 A GHOST STORY | ★★★ | January 2024
THE MIRROR CRACK’D | ★★★ | October 2022
THE TWO POPES | ★★★★ | October 2022
PLAYTIME | ★★★★ | September 2022
THE WELLSPRING | ★★★ | March 2022
BLUE / ORANGE | ★★★★ | November 2021
GIN CRAZE | ★★★★ | July 2021



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The Tempest

The Tempest


Shakespeare’s Globe

The Tempest

The Tempest

Shakespeare’s Globe

Reviewed – 29th July 2022



“we’re perfectly happy to sit a little longer, marvelling at the all-sorts gathered on stage”


The Tempest is so easily, and so often, staged as a play of a single lead character, the mighty Prospero, with a generous sprinkling of small parts dallying around him. But in Sean Holmes’ production, there are no small parts. Each character finds their allies and enemies on stage, and each is the centre of their own story. Perhaps this is due to artistic director Michelle Terry’s idea of a Globe Ensemble: these actors have been working together for what should be a year, but owing to the pandemic is likely closer to two. And the confidences and friendships which have developed give this production a glorious esprit de corps: Whilst Ferdy Roberts has the most lines, he’s just one in a big family.

That being said, Roberts is fabulous as self-important Prospero. De-robing in the first thirty seconds to reveal a very small pair of yellow swimming briefs, he manifests both Prospero’s wild amount of self-confidence and his innate ridiculousness; perhaps he’s unable to laugh at himself, but we have plenty to laugh at.

Having been betrayed by his brother years ago and sent out to sea with his young daughter to near-certain death, Prospero discovers that his brother is now sailing in a wedding party past the desert island he now inhabits. He sends his servant-spirit Ariel to cause a storm and shipwreck the party, scattering them across the island, ripe for vengeful antics.

Whilst Prospero is often described as a sorcerer, under Holmes’ direction, the only magic he appears to have performed is making Ariel feel indebted to him. So, any time he requires magic to be done, there she appears, with a flick of the wrist. Rachel Hannah Clarke is cheeky but resolute as Ariel, enjoying her tasks of playful manipulation, whilst also holding a solemn gaze with Prospero in talks of her freedom.

It’s this balance of playfulness and gravity that dictates the play’s atmosphere. Yes, the stage is filled with swimming inflatables- a lobster, a flamingo- and it feels completely apt that characters should be bewitched to behave like dogs and think they’re Harry Potter, but there is also much loss and betrayal which is somehow still strikingly felt amidst all the hijinks.

Whilst planes overhead often feature ad-libitum at the Globe, Ralph Davis’ perfectly timed screech for help as a plane passes by, is brilliant. In fact, he has quite a few bold moments of ad-libbing (“O, touch me not; I am not Stephano…I’m the boy who lived.”) which feels especially transgressive in a Shakespeare play but works wonderfully.

Ciarán O’Brien’s Caliban, traditionally played as grotesque and feral, is here a stroppy, sheltered teenager, which feels much less problematic and leaves plenty of space for us to think he might very well earn his freedom after the play is done.

By far my favourite moment is the celebratory dance performed by gods and spirits on Prospero’s request as a gift to his daughter Miranda and her betrothed Ferdinand. Maybe ten or fifteen appear, wearing floral-patchworked white jumpsuits, flower crowns and rose-tinted glasses, clutching palm fronds. At first the dance is flat-out bizarre, and soon it becomes overtly sexual as the ‘gods’ hump the air, moving closer and closer to the couple, eventually resulting in what appears to be a group orgasm, much to Prospero’s horror.

Like many of Shakespeare’s comedies, it takes a little too long to wrap up, insisting on accounting for every single character, one after the other. But so much good will has been won by then that we’re perfectly happy to sit a little longer, marvelling at the all-sorts gathered on stage, or gazing up past the Globe’s thatched roof to the clear summer sky.


Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Marc Brenner


The Tempest

Shakespeare’s Globe until 22nd October


Recent shows reviewed by Miriam:

Witness For The Prosecution | ★★★★★ | London County Hall | April 2022
100 Paintings | ★★ | Hope Theatre | May 2022
La Bohème | ★★★½ | King’s Head Theatre | May 2022
Y’Mam | ★★★★ | Soho Theatre | May 2022
The Fellowship | ★★★ | Hampstead Theatre | June 2022
I Can’t Hear You | ★★★★ | Theatre503 | July 2022
The Hive | ★★★ | Hoxton Hall | July 2022
Hungry | ★★★★★ | Soho Theatre | July 2022
Oh Mother | ★★★★ | Soho Theatre | July 2022
An Intervention | ★★★½ | Greenwich Theatre | July 2022


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