The Tempest, Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford,
Henry VI, Parts 1-3, Courtyard, Stratford
Prospero revels in a spell of northern exposure
Sunday 13 August 2006
The shipwrecked nobles have washed up in the Arctic or some more metaphoric, spiritually desolate realm in Rupert Goold's new production of The Tempest. During the opening storm, grey waves crash on a huge projection scrim, a radar dial transforms into a porthole-cum-magic circle through which we spy below-decks, then a black screen whirls with white flecks as if charting a tornado or brainwave interference. It's a startling vision, as is the panorama of jagged ice that comprises Prospero's isle and evokes Caspar David Friedrich's bleak painting, The Wreck Of The Hope.
There are some weak links, not least a totally unconvincing, snarling, waddling Caliban and some feeble comedy in the drunken subplot with the upstarts Trinculo and Stephano. But Patrick Stewart, looking as if he's gone native in Alaska (right), is a superb and complex Prospero: a bitterly abusive supremacist, spitting at Caliban, but a tenderly loving as well as domineering father. Mariah Gale is a sweetly gawky Miranda, stiff with isolation yet innocently swift to adore mankind as the play moves towards tricky reconciliations. Shakespeare's late romance is, very clearly here, about people breaking free - children, underdogs and souls preparing to quit this life. Julian Crouch's Ariel is particularly arresting: a cadaverous ghoul, almost Mephistophelean and the embodiment of Death lurking behind the door.
Meanwhile, Michael Boyd restages the Bard's conflict-strewn Henry VI trilogy, initially part of the histories cycle in 2000, now opening the RSC's new 1,000-seat auditorium. The Courtyard is a temporary try-out for a major rebuild of the RST, basically like the wonderful Swan but bigger, with a thrust stage surrounded by a three-storey audience. In the long run, I fear this is too samey, losing the variety of the RST's pros arch. But the space itself - like an aircraft hanger lined with cozy red seats - is exciting, both epic and intimate. And Boyd's production is a vigorous rolling saga with battles fought on swinging ropes and flying ladders. Chuk Iwuji is the wide-eyed, timid, monarch plagued by Katy Stephens's saintly-going-on-slutty Joan of Arc and Jonathan Slinger's fetid, psychotic Richard of Gloucester. Strong ensemble work. KB
The Tempest to 12 Oct; Henry VI to 21 Oct: RSC, Stratford (0870 609 1110)
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Home Office says Nigerian asylum-seeker can’t be a lesbian as she’s got children
- 2 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 3 Drugs Live cannabis trial: Hash is less harmful than any other drug, expert claims
- 4 Turkish Airlines flight TK 726 crash-lands on Nepal runway amid dense fog
- 5 Apple and Google users being spied on for a decade because of 'Freak' security flaw
Glastonbury 2015: Coldplay will not headline but Florence Welch might play, says Emily Eavis
Kurt Cobain's life and death: Montage of Heck film uses unseen footage to tell Nirvana frontman's story
Mal Peet dead at 67: Tributes to children's author who was 'universally adored'
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Drugs Live: Twitter responds to Jon Snow and Jennie Bond smoking cannabis
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
Boris Nemtsov shot dead: Outspoken Putin critic who had expressed fears for his life is killed near the Kremlin