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
James Hewitt has firmly denied being Harry’s father

Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
TVDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

Arts and Entertainment
Laugh a minute: Steph Parker with Nigel Farage

Arts and Entertainment
Comic Ivor Dembina has staged his ‘Traditional Jewish Xmas Eve Show’ for the past 20 years; the JNF UK charity is linked to the Jewish National Fund, set up to fund Jewish people buying land in Palestinian territories

Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
    Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

    Scarred by the bell

    The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
    Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

    Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

    Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
    The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

    The Locked Room Mysteries

    As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
    Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

    How I made myself Keane

    Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
    A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

    Wear in review

    A look back at fashion in 2014
    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

    Might just one of them happen?
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?