First Night: The Tempest, Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Emotional heat warms a strange icy wasteland adds a sense of strangeness

In terms of climate, though not of feeling, Rupert Goold's remarkably fresh new main-stage production ofThe Tempest at Stratford must be the coldest on record. Instead of the usual vague desert island, the setting here is a frozen polar wasteland. The shipwrecked courtiers shiver in howling blizzards clad in a combination of dinner- and life-jackets. The jester Trinculo (Craig Gazey) skates around with frying pans strapped to his feet.

In the spooky mock-banquet, the fir coated spirits drag on a sledge with a huge dead fish from whose bloody, blubbery innards Julian Bleach's eerie, horror-movie Ariel spectacularly bursts in the guise of a harpy.

If it certainly renews a feeling of the play's strangeness, this relocation also threatens to become distracting in its specificity and it blurs the impression that Prospero's isle is a weirdly relativistic place, striking people differently according to their natures and temperament.

Giles Cadle's set is so ostentatiously Arctic that the honest counsellor Gonzalo (James Hayes) sounds barmy (and raises and unexpected laugh) when he tosses a handful of snow and declares: "How lush and lusty the grass looks! How green!"

Emotionally, though, this is a heated Tempest. As Prospero, Patrick Stewart speaks the verse with commanding artistry and veers movingly between spasms of vehement vengeful anger and hard-won humane restraint. He gives a detailed unjudgemental performance that adroitly encompasses the contradictions in the exiled Duke. This is a Prospero who can be pettily spiteful, spitting in the dog-bowl of food left out for John Light's snarling, intelligent Caliban, and clumsily tender, wiping the smudges off his daughter's face with a licked hankie, before he engineers her encounter with Ferdinand. Mariah Gale is an excellent, touching Miranda, as gawkily stiff and eccentrically direct as you'd expect a girl to be who'd grown up in such isolation. When she is confronted with a "brave new world" of strangers, there's a stinging irony here that she innocently embraces Ken Bones's obduratly evil Antonio. Stewart twists the heart, too, at the end when he throws his magic staff into the flames left by the departure of Ariel and communicates the essential, now undefended loneliness of the self- renouncing sorcerer.

This production ofThe Tempest begins with a cod shipping forecast and a staging of the storm from the packed, almost Marks Brothers-like perspective of the vessel's radio room. But initial worries that ingenuity and deviations from convention are going to be given priority over honest insights gradually subside.

It could have felt premature to present a play that (despite his three later collaborative pieces) is sentimentally regarded as Shakespeare's farewell to his art less than half way through the Complete Works season at Stratford. But the RSC were right to take advantage of Patrick Stewart's availability while they could. On those grounds, the programming makes perfect sense.

Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
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
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
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
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.

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor