The Tempest, Theatre Royal, Bath / The Illusion, Southwark Playhouse, London / Soul Sister, Savoy, London

A naff spectacular with a strangely familiar storm was only saved by some superb acting

Some of the aristocrats shipwrecked on Prospero's isle in The Tempest hear invisible sprites singing sweet airs that delight and hurt not. Others hear barking, as if demonic hounds were at their heels. The castaways also see a banquet, like a mirage, laid out before them by fantastical creatures who vanish into thin air, replaced by a foreboding harpy. Shakespeare's late romance is always somewhat hallucinatory.

Surely, though, these mind games – played by the magus – shouldn't be accompanied by a severe case of déjà vu? Apologies for backtracking but last month, at the Edinburgh Festival, I cheered the theatrical brilliance of the hurricane in Ariane Mnouchkine's Les Naufragés du Fol Espoir – evoked with a vast, thrashing mainsail, thunderous drums, and the witty sight-gag of crouching actors flapping others' coat-tails.

A week later, how does Adrian Noble stage Prospero's storm at Bath Theatre Royal? Erm, with those same devices – and less skill. This is obviously coincidence or appreciative homage. Noble first staged this Tempest (in San Diego) in mid-2011, not in 2010 as suggested in the programme notes. Mnouchkine's production premiered (in Paris) in 2010.

Worse, Noble – a former head of the RSC – lets this show degenerate into a naff spectacular. Some of his English cast rise above this, but designer Deirdre Clancy's vaguely Far Eastern costumes look inauthentic. Mark Meadows' Ariel is, surely, the love-child of Johnny Weissmuller's Tarzan and Zandra Rhodes, his bare midriff and eyelids streaked with blue powder-paint. Shaun Davey's score is cheesy and obtrusive too.

At least Noble strongly highlights the theme of revolutionary emancipation. Fine clowning is supplied by Mark Hadfield as the booze-sodden upstart, Trinculo – covering one eye to stop himself seeing double. Tim Pigott-Smith's Prospero has gravitas and ire. Unlike Ian McKellen's (wholly unShakespearean) portrayal of the wizard in the Paralympics' Opening Ceremony, Pigott-Smith struggles to let his daughter go, even to her new love, Ferdinand. Mark Quartley transforms this normally wooden role into an over-whelmingly touching portrait of youthful ardour and resilience. He steals the show, in a totally wonderful way.

Written in 1636, The Illusion was Pierre Corneille's answer to The Tempest. In a dark cave dwells a magician called Alcandre who, we're told, has the power to raise storms and read minds. A father, named Pridamant, craves to know what has become of Clindor, the son who fled his strictures 10 years ago. Alcandre conjures up apparitional scenes for Pridamant, showing his offspring reduced to the status of a manservant but wedding a lady of rank whom he was supposed to be courting on behalf of his vainglorious master.

The Illusion is a teaser, like a Chinese box, compiled of layer upon layer of pretending. Alcandre's magic can, like Prospero's, be seen as a metaphor for the art of theatre-making. Moreover, within the core story of Clindor's adventures, reality and truth become increasingly elusive. Ultimately, we are led to understand that James Clyde's Pridamant has been watching actors playing a troupe of actors (or rather a mirage of a troupe of actors) who have, in turn, been depicting characters who have proved startlingly inconstant. If you believe Alcandre, that is.

Given all that unreliability, it would be foolish to moan that Tony Kushner's adaptation – staged by Seb Harcombe – isn't strictly The Illusion as we know it. Theatregoers unfamiliar with the original might well be surprised to learn how divergent this version is. Kushner has cut whole scenes, and invented a hunched lad, Daniel Easton's Amanuensis, who's kept in thrall by Alcandre (who is also a sorceress, portrayed with icy elegance by Melanie Jessop). But who's complaining when Kushner has enriched the drama with extra twists and darker psychological depths. Moreover, his freely inventive poetic dialogue is bewitching: vivid in its imagery, baroque in its eloquence, and more philosophically searching than Corneille.

Harcombe's production, in exquisite, ghostly, period costumes, also showcases the talents of recent graduates from Rada (where the director teaches). More work needs to be done on class accents, but Shanaya Rafaat is electrifying as a jovial maidservant who, when her romantic hero proves to be a gold-digging Lothario, mutates into an avenger with the hair-raising ferocity of a Medea.

The pop star Tina Turner, by contrast, seems to have had the patience of a saint, enduring her guitar-twanging husband Ike's serial adultery and violent temper for years. In the mid-Seventies, apparently with the help of Buddhist chanting, she found the strength to break free and became an icon of rocking feistiness.

The jukebox biomusical about her, Soul Sister, transferring from Hackney Empire to the West End, has a skimpy script disguised by Bob Eaton and Pete Brooks's slick staging, with video projections styled like a graphic novel. Crucially, Emi Wokoma does a rip-roaring impression of Tina, blasting out "River Deep, Mountain High" and two dozen other hits. But, the band is so loud that my eardrums were sore by the end: sweet airs that delight but hurt a bit.

'The Tempest' (01225-448 844) and 'The Illusion' (020-7407 0234) to 8 Sep; 'Soul Sister': (0844 871 7687) to 29 Sep

Arts and Entertainment

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade

radio
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?