Tag Archives: The Tempest

The Tempest

The Tempest

★★★★

Jermyn Street Theatre

The Tempest

The Tempest

Jermyn Street Theatre

Reviewed – 13th March 2020

★★★★

 

“a thoughtful presentation, enhanced by the intimacy of the space, and the skilled performances”

 

Can The Tempest—a play full of echoes of Shakespeare’s imminent retirement from a rich and successful theatrical life—be played in a small theatre, and on a pocket handkerchief sized stage? It turns out that it can. It can, that is, if you have Michael Pennington for your Prospero, supported by a cast of talented actors speaking with understanding of a text that contains some of Shakespeare’s most memorable lines. And it should, if you have a director (Tom Littler) who knows how to put on big plays in small spaces.

You might be forgiven for being sceptical. This Tempest demands work from the audience, beginning with a search to find the venue among all the clothing establishments in Jermyn Street, long the haunt of London’s haute monde. But when you eventually discover the modest entrance, near Waterstones, and descend into the performance space, you will be charmed. The stage is literally tucked into a corner, and designers Neil Irish and Anett Black make the most of it by creating a wall of curving shelves that contain all the flotsam and jetsam of Prospero’s past life as Duke of Milan. Add to that a couple of curtains to create additional spaces, and you can conjure up an enchanted isle quite effectively. Black and Irish were inspired by the experiences and art of Gauguin in Tahiti in the design—hence a lovely sketch of distant vistas on one of the curtains, and a medley of different cultural influences in the costume designs as well. Ariel’s costume and make up stands out in this respect. The costumes are all cleverly made from bits of cloth that could have been washed up from the shipwreck that brought Prospero and his daughter Miranda to the island. Add to that William Reynolds’ lighting design, haunting music and sound by Max Pappenheim (always essential in The Tempest), and you see an unexpectedly rich canvas on which the production has been created. But this is not easily apparent. You have to take the time—to look, and to listen—to all the island’s voices.

Watch for several innovations. The opening scene of the storm at sea that brings Prospero’s enemies to his shore is cut—instead it is Prospero who speaks the lines while holding a ship tossing and turning in his hands. It’s an effective way of emphasizing the fact that Prospero is a magician who has conjured up the storm. When Miranda enters, the audience is as ready as she is, to hear the story of how father and daughter arrived on the island. There is some judicious doubling. Tam Williams plays both Caliban and Ferdinand—and it works because Williams plays Caliban with a white canvas hood over his head. This device makes Caliban an oddly sympathetic character right from the start, and Williams’ skilled performance means that it takes a while to realize that one actor is playing both roles. Peter Bramhill doubles as Sebastian, Ferdinand’s uncle, with the comic role of Trinculo. Richard Derrington doubles as Prospero’s usurping brother, Antonio, with the drunken butler Stephano. It is a treat to see Lynn Farleigh take on the role of Gonzalo, and she brings a rare clarity and power to his lines.

Whitney Kehinde, as Ariel, is a wonderful sprite with just the right amount of enthusiasm for her work, coupled with fear that Prospero will not honour his promise and release her when her tasks are done. Kehinde is a genuine triple threat and a talent to watch. In fact, the only major weakness in this production is the lack of chemistry between Ferdinand and Miranda, despite the best efforts of Tam Williams (without a hood) and Kirsty Bushell (Miranda). And it is the greatest pleasure to watch Michael Pennington, as Prospero, literally hold the whole production in the palm of his hand. He manages to bring off both the power and vulnerability of the role in ways that allow us to maintain sympathy for the character, while questioning Prospero’s more morally dubious actions.

For clarity of insight into Shakespeare’s last great play, take a chance on the Jermyn Street Theatre’s production. It’s a thoughtful presentation, enhanced by the intimacy of the space, and the skilled performances.

 

Reviewed by Dominica Plummer

Photography by Robert Workman

 

 

The Tempest

 Jermyn Street Theatre until 4th April

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Pictures Of Dorian Gray (A) | ★★★ | June 2019
Pictures Of Dorian Gray (B) | ★★★ | June 2019
Pictures Of Dorian Gray (C) | ★★★★ | June 2019
Pictures Of Dorian Gray (D) | ★★ | June 2019
For Services Rendered | ★★★★★ | September 2019
The Ice Cream Boys | ★★★★ | October 2019
All’s Well That Ends Well | ★★★★ | November 2019
One Million Tiny Plays About Britain | ★★★ | December 2019
Beckett Triple Bill | ★★★★★ | January 2020
The Dog Walker | ★★ | February 2020

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

The Tempest – 4 Stars

Covent

The Tempest

St Paul’s Church

Reviewed – 26th June 2018

★★★★

“The gardens provide a stunning backdrop and the church itself adds an element of drama to the production”

 

Struggling with the searing city heat? Fancy the theatre but can’t face the stifling environment of the auditorium? Head to St Paul’s, the Actor’s Church in Covent Garden and be treated to Iris Theatre’s alfresco performance of The Tempest. The gardens of St Paul’s are a delightful escape from the heat and give a beautiful backdrop to this promenade production.

With almost perfect timing at the opening scene, the wind starts to pick up and rustle through the trees creating the sense of trouble ahead. This continues as Jamie Newall playing Prospero whips up a foreboding storm and sets the fate of the King of Naples and his accompanying crew.

Charlotte Christensen is a delight as Ariel. She plays the ethereal, mystic creature so well you forget she is human as she gracefully moves around the set with an unwavering quizzical stare. Her voice is magical, and her flute playing is mesmerising. She certainly is the star of this show.

Paul Brendan as Trinculo and Reginald Edwards as Stephano delight the audience with their portrayal of drunken fools. These scenes bring a welcomed light heartedness to the evening.

The gardens provide a stunning backdrop and the church itself adds an element of drama to the production. The lighting design by Benjamin Polya used within the church is both clever and imaginative.

Despite the heat of the day the garden is much cooler than elsewhere, enclosed by tall buildings it is very shady and the temperature drops rapidly. You would be wise to take along a jacket or even a blanket to ensure you are not shivering through the closing scenes. Take advantage of the current weather and take part in this special and engaging show.

 

Reviewed by Angela East

Photography by Nick Rutter

 


The Tempest

St Paul’s Church until 28th July

 

Related
Previously reviewed Iris Theatre production
Macbeth | ★★★★★ | St Paul’s Church | July 2017

 

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