The Tempest – October 2011


By: William Shakespeare

Directed by: Trevor Nunn

Venue: Theatre Royal, Haymarket

Date: Thursday 6th October 2011

This was disappointing, especially after the two much livelier Shakespeare productions we’ve just seen. I have no criticism for the actors, but the production itself was pretty bog standard and often dull, with just a few good sections to keep us in our seats. Admittedly, we were tired after all our travelling, but we’ve seen plays in similar circumstances and been enthralled; not so today.

My main problem was with the set. Prospero’s cell was to our left, and occupied the left-hand box in front of the pros arch. The boxes at the side were mostly swathed in blue cloth, which gave a sort of connection to the rest of the stage, but the fake boxes on either side of the stage, that were part of the Waiting For Godot set, were left as is, so I could only conclude that this deserted island just happened to have a crumbling theatre on it, which rather spoilt the picture. The brick wall at the back didn’t help either, and although this was masked for the performance, I never felt this was a remote island in any sea.

The use of wires to fly Ariel in and out, along with some of the other spirits, looked a bit clumsy at first, but after a while I accepted it, and by the masque scene I was enjoying the spectacle of several flying goddesses. Ariel’s makeup and movement were a bit jerky, as was the delivery of the lines, so not my favourite interpretation, but it worked well enough in this production.

Nicholas Lyndhurst was reasonably good as Trinculo, but Clive Wood seemed completely miscast as Stephano. Their routines with Caliban were moderately funny, but not as good as we would have expected from such strong casting, so clearly something’s gone wrong somewhere. The rest of the cast were OK, and the lines were spoken well enough, but there just wasn’t any sparkle to the performance, sadly.

One aspect of the staging I did like was the opening section, where Prospero came on stage, laid down his staff across the front of the stage, and conjured the storm as we watched. He then stood back as the crew came up through the hatches, and was a background presence for the early part at least – I didn’t notice him all the way through. Another interesting choice was to use two additional actors as extra Ariel’s – they were able to run around the ship causing mayhem, as described by Ariel later, and adding to the image of a mischievous spirit.

Ferdinand and Miranda were like a couple of teenagers, getting some funny facial reactions from Prospero. When he was talking to them, allowing them to be together, he can hardly get a word in edgeways at times because Ferdinand is so full of formal speeches himself. That worked well, but it wasn’t enough to lift the whole performance. There are better Shakespeare productions to be seen, and not all in London.

© 2011 Sheila Evans at

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