Tag Archives: Rio Kai

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

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Intra Muros

Intra Muros


Park Theatre

Intra Muros

Intra Muros

Park Theatre

Reviewed – 5th April 2019

 

“a thoroughly bland and disappointing ninety minutes”

 

The premise for Alexis Michalik’s play is a simple one: a director, an actor and a social worker go into a maximum security prison to hold a drama class for the inmates. Only two prisoners turn up. The class goes ahead anyway, and truths are revealed. It is described in the press release as ‘a captivating and darkly comic exploration of life, within the walls’, and, at a time when knife crime is on the rise in London, and just under 79,000 men are currently being held in British prisons (figure from Home Office website) this seemed like a brave and timely piece of theatre for the Park to be staging. Instead, what a thoroughly bland and disappointing ninety minutes it was.

In the programme notes, Michalik describes meeting some maximum security prisoners and how this meeting intrigued him sufficiently to lead him to write this play. One can only wish that this interest had led him to do some more thorough research. Among the more idiotic plot points of this drama was the fact that a child was conceived between a maximum security prisoner and a visitor during visiting time. As someone who has spent a great deal of time visiting prisons in the UK over the past three years, this reviewer can testify to the complete impossibility of this premise. Similarly, the idea of three lay people with little or no prison experience behind them being left alone with two violent offenders is absurd, as is the fact that the director would (a) be allowed and (b) have the utter front to ask an allegedly violent offender to re-enact the circumstances that led him to his imprisonment. There are some extraordinary companies and organisations creating drama with prisoners and ex-offenders in this country (Clean Break and Synergy Theatre Project to name two); it might have been an idea to engage with them.

The play is translated from the French, so it may well be that some of these issues are explained by cultural difference, but if you are clearly locating the action in the UK – Norwich and Durham are name-checked – this is basic stuff.

The drama opens with the director (played, with meta-theatrical symmetry, by the director, Che Walker) asking the audience directly, ‘What does theatre mean to you?’. The first audience member to answer replied ‘Storytelling’, and here, alas, this play fell short. It was impossible to understand why this story was being told, and also, particularly in the second half, it was not easy to follow such story as there was, as it was being told. Che’s director-character also made much of the power of emotion, and again, despite numerous on-stage breakdowns, the performances here, by and large, remained resolutely surface and unconnected throughout. Victor Gardener, as Angel, brought some welcome gravitas to the stage, but the characterisation in the main seemed skittish, rushed and unfocused. It takes more than a change of accent to outline a new character, and the lack of physical change in the performers from role to role was notable.

Accents that worked well were found in the sound and lighting design. Rio Kai’s double bass playing in the onstage underscore was a highlight, and David Howe provided some deft atmospheric changes with his lighting design, particularly against the back wall. Despite these efforts however, and ironically, given its meta-theatrical nature, Intra Muros remained theatrically unsatisfying, full of sound and fury but signifying nothing.

 

Reviewed for thespyinthestalls.com

Photography by Edward Johnson

 


Intra Muros

Park Theatre until 4th May

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
A Pupil | ★★★★ | November 2018
Dialektikon | ★★★½ | December 2018
Peter Pan | ★★★★ | December 2018
Rosenbaum’s Rescue | ★★★★★ | January 2019
The Dame | ★★★★ | January 2019
Gently Down The Stream | ★★★★★ | February 2019
My Dad’s Gap Year | ★★½ | February 2019
Cry Havoc | ★★ | March 2019
The Life I Lead | ★★★ | March 2019
We’re Staying Right Here | ★★★★ | March 2019

 

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