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Michael Grandage directs this production of The Tempest that has transferred from the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield and provides ample proof of the great theatrical work that takes place in the provinces. A simple classic retelling of what is believed by many to be Shakespeare’s greatest achievement.

The Theatre is an illusion, in which we the theatre audience are willing participants gladly collaborating with our imagination in the illusion being portrayed for our entertainment on the stage.

The playwright is the magician who creates characters and scenes at will in order to tell his story whilst the director is the magicians chief assistant, interpreting the script and moving the cast around the stage in order to bring the production to life.

In the Tempest we have an illusion within the illusion. Prospero the magician casts his spells and so creates the appearance of a storm in which his enemies are shipwrecked upon his magical island. Here with the aid of his enslaved spirit-servant Ariel he controls the movements of his enemies and thereby brings about a reconciliation that sees him restored to his dukedom in Milan.

Derek Jacobi gives a masterful performance as the powerful magician Prospero. He plays the part of a disillusioned, embittered and revengeful old man who is delighted that fate has placed his enemies within his power. However, he is also magnanimous in victory as he discovers a gentler side to his nature, one of forgiveness and reconciliation. Jacobi hints at the origin of Prospero’s change of heart when we see him thoughtfully watch his daughter from a distance as she expresses her love for Ferdinand, the son of one of Prospero’s enemies. Does his daughter’s love for his enemy cause him to fall under a new sweeter illusion, one in which his magic and spells are no longer needed?

Daniel Evans also excels as Ariel, which he performs as a playful nymph. He casts his illusions with gentle gestures and a sweet lyrical voice. There is no harshness to his character and even when he pleads for his freedom from Prospero’s service he lacks severity. His mannerisms express a love and respect for his master and when he is finally granted his freedom one wonders if he would not choose to freely continue in Prospero’s service?

The minor sub-plots fill this play with delightful characters that are also beautifully and carefully constructed. Louis Hilyer magically brings a vulnerability to the character of Caliban, Prospero’s slave, even as he revels in his character’s repulsiveness. Nigel Lindsay as Stephano and Iain Robertson as Trinculo create a wonderful comic double act as they drunkenly hatch out their unavailing plan to overthrow Prospero as master of the island.

A masterful production of a wonderful play.

Alan Bird

What other critics had to say.....

NICHOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD says, "Unimaginative, ill-formed production... LYN GARDNER for THE GUARDIAN says, enjoyable, without being particularly memorable." CHARLES SPENCER for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "A most magical Prospero " BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE for THE TIMES says, "The evening is firmly grounded. With Jacobi’s Prospero seething at the centre, nothing can go seriously amiss. "

External links to full reviews from popular press

The Guardian
Daily Telegraph
The Times

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