The Tempest

Theatre, West End
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The Tempest

Here’s a pitch for a sitcom: there’s this middle-aged bachelor – let’s have him played by Roger Allam from ‘The Thick of It’, say – and he’s also a magician, right? And he lives on a desert island with his precocious teenage daughter Miranda – maybe somebody from one of those Andrew Lloyd Webber talent shows to play her – an oddball fairy called Ariel – Colin Morgan from ‘Merlin’ is free now, right? – and a rape-happy goblin called Caliban. Hilarious, yeah? And then, uh-oh! Guess who drops in? Only his evil brother Antonio.

Yup, small-screen star and Globe stalwart Allam plays Shakespeare’s enchanter Prospero as the original put-upon sitcom dad in director Jeremy Herrin’s jolly new version of ‘The Tempest’. And it works brilliantly… Some of the time.

With his arsenal of rolled eyes, awkward silences, exasperated sighs, and helpless looks, Allam finds a novel, funny and very human take on the oft stick-in-the-mud-ish Prospero. And while he’s on stage, everything goes to plan – his slightly stilted repartee with Morgan’s somewhat confused Ariel is a hoot in particular, while ‘I’d Do Anything’ runner up Jessie Buckley charms as half-feral Miranda.

In an explicitly comic production, the comedy subplot – in which James Garnon’s humble Caliban and shipwrecked servants Stephano and Trinculo stumble around the island getting shitfaced on moonshine – is as gloriously OTT a bit of nonsense as you’d hope.

But there is no sense of danger whatsoever in this cuddly ‘The Tempest’ and Herrin seems totally at a loss over what to do with the shipwrecked ‘villains’, headed by Prospero’s dastardly usurping brother Antonio (Jason Baughan). They stand around, saying their lines with all the élan of a bunch of middle managers on an away day, looking barely directed next to the loving comic detail of the other scenes. I suspect as the run goes on these bits will be fixed, but for now this bold comic reinvention of Shakespeare’s final play is only a qualified success.

Andrzej Lukowski


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I found the whole "sitcom" take of the review quite bizarre - a mere device perhaps prompted by Roger Allam's recent forays into both TV and radio. Perhaps the early days of this run were less polished, but what I saw two days ago was as stunning a piece of theatre as I have witnessed in a long time. This is not an overtly political reading, it is true. But instead we have Allam's Prospero, spellbinding and utterly human, only incidentally a prince, sorcerer and colonial master, but primarily a concerned and deeply loving father. The two lovers were both funny and touching; like goofy and real infatuated teens rather than the one-dimensionally useless couples we often get. Caliban was unsettling and earthily brilliant. And Ariel was a real sprite, unpredictable and other-worldly, and at one point quite terrifying. And yes there was comedy, loads of it, some subtle, some broad, and all of it entirely suited to the intimacy of The Globe. My abiding memory of the performance will be Roger Allam wringing humanity and meaning out of every syllable and presenting it all with a matter-of-factness and clarity which made me wonder why anybody ever finds any of this Shakespeare stuff at all difficult. I too feel that three stars has sold this production sadly short.

I saw this the other night -- as a groundling, for 5 pounds -- and it was really terrific. I dunno what the Time Out reviewer was thinking when he gave it 3 stars. It's excellent.Excellent Prospero and a fascinating, memorable Pakistani Caliban.

I went to see it last night - it was just fabulous and incredibly good. Magical environment and experience. We laughed, we cried and our backs ached cos we were standing in the yard but got within touching distance of the actors. Never before have I seen a performance where every single line and word was so well understood and thus conveyed by the actors and every moment was hit so perfectly. An astounding play, performed at its very best. If you can get in to see it, do so.