The Tempest

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© Catherine Ashmore
Ralph Fiennes (Prosepero) and Elisabeth Hopper (Miranda)

Perhaps he’s overcompensating for all that snake-faced malice as Lord Voldemort, but there’s something too good to be true about Ralph Fiennes’s Prospero.

Shakespeare’s dispossessed magician, exiled to a magic isle with his daughter, is considerably whiter than his Hogwartian counterpart. But he and his enemies are more interesting when they’re less straightforward than Trevor Nunn’s impressive but old-fashioned production imagines.

Fiennes is a fine verse-speaker and it’s touching to see his irascibility melt into thin air as he chokes up with love and fear for his beautiful daughter Miranda. Elisabeth Hopper seems a little stiff playing opposite this illustrious father, but finds sweetly comic eagerness with her first boyfriend, shipwrecked Prince Ferdinand (the excellent Michael Benz).

But Fiennes’s powerful, straightforward Prospero is marooned by a dull production. Nunn’s direction is majestic – a pageant in which gold-masked goddesses descend from the firmament is phenomenal. But, at the same time, it is unmagical and lacks inspiration. This rich, strange isle requites visionary directors. Instead of discovering a new world, Nunn adds an odd jumble of ruined buildings, cavalier-style costumes and supernumerary sprites who seem to have tripped gaily out of a production of ‘Cats’.

Boringly, this is textbook Shakepeare: firstly because every character – from Giles Terera’s muscular Caliban to Julian Wadham’s improbably penitent villain Antonio – is well played in a clear and conventional way; secondly, because the island they consciously inhabit seems mainly to be a famous play called ‘The Tempest’.

The bright exception is Nicholas Lyndhurst as the feckless butler, Trinculo. Like a depressed seventeenth-century scarecrow, with his lanky body and straw-like hair sticking up at impossible angles, he is woebegone to his fingertips and ticklishly funny.

Natural comics can make silk purses out of Shakespeare’s comic roles and Lyndhurst brings subtlety, instinct and elasticity. If only it would spread like wildfire and ignite this grand, overly well-mannered production.

Event phone: 020 7907 7071
Event website: http://www.trh.co.uk

Average User Rating

2.8 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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  • 1 star:3
LiveReviews|8
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Regine Freise

why can I not give minus- stars, or maybe lemons ? I did not know that anything that old fashioned ( in a very bad sense) does still exist in theatre! You kind of spoiled my birthday, what I pity. I'll have to have several gin-tonics to recover- and I left during the interval, imagine what I would have to drink after having seen the whole play........

Evgeny

Before evaluation I can say that I'm not originally from UK and got only about 10% of the speech (but know the plot). This show is really boring to see. Ralph Fiennes playing much more in Harry Potter than here, but moreover - all issues came from directing. There is almost no action on the stage - just some talks. Plot that looks more energizing became too boring on the stage. Actors are trying to stay on right plays on the stage than to bring more passion into their characters - especially warriors who are walking around island after storm. Not great at all.

Freda

Fiennes lacked the charisma to make Prospero a convincing sorcerer- in comparison with Spacey's Richard III, which we saw a few weeks ago, he appeared to be rather going through the motions, acting with his head but not his heart. Nicholas Lyndhurst was excellent as Trinculo and although I could see it would not be to everyone's taste, I rather enjoyed the circus acrobatics and the tics of the sprites

Ochame

Absolutely enjoyed it. Ralph Fiennes was gracious and wonderful as Prospero but all the other casts had distinct voices.

happy theatregoer

Loved Ralph Feinnes - thought the production as a whole was great - not quite sure what these other reviewers are complainaing about!

Halland

It took me three days to un-cringe my toes. Ralph Fiennes held his head high during what is certainly this fall's most awful production. There's a lot of purposeless wandering about, creaking wires and set pieces as actors are hoisted laboriously into the air, all seeped in electronic pseudo-baroque music. Oh, and did I mention the out-of-tune singing? Have mercy on Mr Fiennes; don't see thos, and don't waste your money!

H Macgregor

Fiennes impresses, Lyndhurst excels and, sadly, that's about it. An Ariel so mannered you wonder if it is a performance or a parody; a Ferdinand so insipid he could turn Miranda to women; and a Miranda who fidgets as though she needs the toilet (constantly). It is such a shame, this is a production that promises so much yet the unimaginative interpretation and shallow acting undermine the stellar work of the two named actors. One to avoid. (Oh, and where was Sir Trevor Nunn whilst all this was happening?)