As You Like It/The Tempest, Old Vic, London

In a programme note for this second year of the Bridge Project, the British-American ensemble that tours the world with classical plays, director Sam Mendes reveals why he has paired As You Like It and Twelfth Night. Both plays deal with usurped and banished dukes and the bitterness of exile and he invokes Ted Hughes's suggestion that Prospero's Devil's Island can be seen as the post-tragic remnant of the Forest of Arden. In practice, though, these hit-and-miss productions do little to substantiate Mendes' claim that they form "a single gesture, a single journey". Handsomely designed and engagingly acted, they don't emerge as a joint revelation and fail to add up to more than the sum of their parts.

A master of sardonic understatement, Stephen Dillane is in his element as a wittily world-weary Jaques in the lively, modern dress As You Like It. Invested in a paper crown and a clown's red nose, he delivers the "Ages of Man" speech as a mocking parody of a virtuoso thesp. Breaking into song, he indulges in a droll impersonation of Bob Dylan, replete with harmonica flourishes. The actor's emotional diffidence is much less of an asset, though, in his performance as Prospero in a staging of The Tempest, which – despite the casting of a black actor, Ron Cephas Jones, as Caliban – avoids a colonialist reading in favour of presenting the piece as a hermetic meditation on the power and the limits of art.

The production finds many striking ways of highlighting Prospero's control of events. Bare-chested in a black suit, Christian Camargo's charismatic Ariel wields the magician's staff in the introductory storm in a manner that suggests both the precipitous tipping of the ship's rail and the steely manipulation of these unwitting mariners. Happiest when retreating to his books at the side of the small sand-strewn circle where his plot unfolds, Dillane's Prospero seems such a pensively sceptical and reluctant stage manager that you lose any tension-inducing sense of a hero who has to struggle towards mercy by first overcoming a violent impulse towards vengeance. The inwardness and privacy of this Prospero is taken, at times, to the extreme of muttering near-inaudibility.

Camargo makes another strong impression in As You Like It as an unusually reflective and melancholy Orlando who evidently finds it hard to shake off the ingrained habits of mistrust. He's partnered here by his real-life wife, Juliet Rylance whose splendid Rosalind enchantingly communicates the tumbling, impatient rapture of first love. She conducts the mock-wooing game with a lovely spur-of-the-moment impulsiveness and, unlike many Rosalinds, she does seem to embark on this course fully formed.

There's a nice, loopy vigour to the portrayal of the low-life comic characters – I particularly enjoyed the overbearing bossiness with which Ashlie Atkinson's big, busty Phoebe forces Silvius to play second fiddle. For all its pleasures, though, the production feels faintly underpowered; you don't sense that Mendes was bursting to direct the play. At the end of the matinee-and-evening marathon on Thursday, the applause was warm and respectful but stopped short of the standing ovation customary at such events.

To 21 August (0844 871 7628)

Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Arts and Entertainment
U2's Songs of Innocence album sleeve

tvU2’s latest record has been accused of promoting sex between men

Arts and Entertainment
Alison Steadman in Inside No.9
tvReview: Alison Steadman stars in Inside No.9's brilliant series finale Spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
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.

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk