The Tempest, Shakespeare's Globe, London

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Mark Rylance seems an obvious choice for Prospero, given that this is his last season as artistic director at the Globe. But this farewell production is far from obvious. It's bafflingly experimental - sometimes mesmerising, often a mess. Rylance had the typically audacious idea to use just three male actors for all parts, with minimal costumes and set. While this has its thematic strengths (on a Jungian reading, Ariel/Miranda is the anima, Caliban the shadow, and the action takes place in Prospero's psyche), it renders much of the play impossible to follow unless you know it inside out. After 45 minutes, my guest leaned over to me and hissed: "You gotta tell me what's going on!"

Mark Rylance seems an obvious choice for Prospero, given that this is his last season as artistic director at the Globe. But this farewell production is far from obvious. It's bafflingly experimental - sometimes mesmerising, often a mess. Rylance had the typically audacious idea to use just three male actors for all parts, with minimal costumes and set. While this has its thematic strengths (on a Jungian reading, Ariel/Miranda is the anima, Caliban the shadow, and the action takes place in Prospero's psyche), it renders much of the play impossible to follow unless you know it inside out. After 45 minutes, my guest leaned over to me and hissed: "You gotta tell me what's going on!"

Edward Hogg morphs eerily between Miranda and Ariel, and Caliban and Ferdinand are also doubled (Alex Hassell is intensely moving as poor, colonised Caliban). The production comes to life with the arrival of the low-born castaways Trinculo (campery of Graham Norton proportions from Hogg) and the drunken Stefano (Rylance). It's glorious smut: Trinculo picks pubic hair out of his teeth after romping with Caliban, who brings a hint of the porn film set with his ribald line: "I'll bring my wood home faster."

But there are big losses in this production: a magic-free (though undeniably spooky) Ariel is one; a downbeat Prospero is another. Their relationship, one of the most moving and enigmatic in the play, is merely tenuous.

The meagreness of the cast looks all the more strange and contrived when there are three not very impressive female dancers, in jeans and leather jackets, on stage throughout. Wobbly arabesques could have been traded for a few more actors. Prospero's abjuration of his rough magic seems to come just in time before his magic abjures him. What a poignant conclusion to Rylance's triumphant tenure at the Globe.

To 2 October. 020 7401 9919

Comments