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
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
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.

    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?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
    The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015