The Tempest

Theatre, Drama
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Simon Russell Beale is a charming Prospero in this weirdly techy RSC production

It’s an agonisingly slow train ride from Stratford-upon-Avon to London and that might explain why the RSC’s style of performing Shakespeare sometimes feels a little out of step. But they’ve made a bold leap into the 21st century with this production, a projection-heavy collaboration with the faintly sinister-sounding digital studio Imaginarium Studios.

Not that you’d know it from Simon Russell Beale’s delightfully trad central performance. As a white-bearded old Prospero, he’s dignified, and made cerebral by his exile, pronouncing his lines with careworn emphasis. Next to him, Jenny Rainsford injects more than a little get-up-and-go into the often insipid role of his daughter Miranda, ogling the men who crashland on their desert island with vigour.

Director Gregory Doran’s production puts all the emphasis on the jokes in Shakespeare’s text, and the scenes where three shipwrecked weirdos stumble round the island on a protracted and intermittently murderous bender are some of its funniest. Trinculo (Simon Trinder) and Stephano (James Hayes) fill the stage in a ridiculous series of antics. I’d love to see a production that worked out what to do with Caliban (Joe Dixon) and the problematic notes of African slavery, but this was never going to be it: he’s a strangely winsome monster in a distended fatsuit.

Doran’s crystal-clear, playful approach finds an unlikely echo in the Disneyfied CGI-stylings of Imaginarium Studios. It’s all thunkingly literal: when Ariel speaks of being imprisoned in a cloven pine, the stage becomes a brown mess of projected branches. When a magical banquet goes up in flames, the whole stage turns into a gigantic version of one of those log fire screensavers.

But it’s nothing to the fourth act’s utter visual cheesefest. Doran turns the masque scene into the closest thing I’ve ever seen to Eurovision on stage: there’s sexed-up country dancing, operatic stylings from three women in panto fairy-style frocks, and a bit where a woman has multicoloured fruit projected on 10 foot high swirling skirts.It’s a fitting climax to a production that might well get Shakespeare skeptics onboard – especially kids – but periodically threatens to drown his play’s magic in a whirlpool of kitsch.

By: Alice Saville

Posted:

Average User Rating

4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:11
  • 4 star:20
  • 3 star:8
  • 2 star:2
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|41
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tastemaker

Always love studying Shakespeare's plays at Uni. So I was quite curious to see this version of The Tempest mixing real acting and technology. 

The mise en scene was spectacular. The shipwreck in the middle of the stage was stunning with colourfull projections and sound effects. As soon as the storm starts, you're completely immerse in this magical environment surrounded by fairies, spirits and other creatures. 

Thankfully I already knew the play as it was quite difficult to follow the plot. My friend and I were seated in stall at the back of room - and we could barely hear the actors' voices. So we missed a lot of details and play on words.

Despite this negative point, I definitely recommend this show as it's a fantastic production using the latest technology to enhance Shakespeare's work. 


tastemaker

Let's face it: you are unlikely to ever need worry about the quality of an RSC production and of course, this faithful rendition of The Tempest is no exception. However, whilst the performances of both Prospero and Ariel were faultless, one overriding question remained that cast a cloud (for me personally) over the whole performance; does Shakespeare's exquisite use of language and story suffer or prosper with the use of today's technology?


In this case, unfortunately I felt that it suffered. As it is, The Tempest is one of Shakespeare's more meandering, broken plays with scenes set all over the Island in which it is set (something very difficult to convey in theatre). Whilst the stunning and impressive set is the perfect backdrop, I found the use of holograms and special effects distracting, which caused the play to feel even more disjointed.


That being said, the acting, costume and set could not be faulted. And the play is still a feast for the eyes, demonstrating the amazing ways in which technology can be used to enhance drama, though perhaps, not in this example. 

Tastemaker

I think it's a pretty safe bet to say that for anyone who has seen an RSC production you can rest assured that the standard will be high and the delivery of Shakespearian narrative will be faultless, but this show offers so much more.The production is visionary in its consistent use of projection to great effect in achieving filmlike and truly immersive scenes. While projection of this sort is becoming more common this takes it to another level in scale and complexity, to great effect allowing plots magic to be brought to life before your eyes in dreamlike sequences which see the stage awash in a hedonistic frenzy of colour. I must say I was not overly familiar with plot prior to watching this, and if you're in the same boat a tip would be that reading the show's accompanying synopsis prior to seeing it makes for more relaxed viewing!

tastemaker

First thing I have to say is I really enjoyed this play. However, I rarely really knew what was going on so I did have to Google the plot during the interval. I don’t blame this on the production though, this is one of the more meandering, bizarre plays that Shakespeare wrote. Some of the comic scenes I have to say I didn’t really find funny but it was nice to have a light-hearted element in the midst of some of the heavier scenes. The set design looks like no expense was spared with really sturdy looking wooden scenery and virtual reality style holograms. Although it was a shame that the timing of the hologram was slightly out of kilter with the actors. I really enjoyed the acting. In particular, the actor who played Aerial was impressive. He was always lurking in the background, sneaking, climbing and hanging off pieces of the set. He must have the core muscles of an athlete! The time passes quickly so it doesn’t feel as long as it is and the theatre seats are very comfortable. On the whole, I think I’d choose a different Shakespeare play over The Tempest but they have done well with what they were given.

Tastemaker

This play is not considered Shakespeare’s best, and there is reason for that. A convoluted story and too many characters, not exactly a comedy but obviously aiming for laughs, it’s neither here nor there. This production does not try to fix that, or try it by distraction: a lot of technology, video and light projections that awe at moments, but rarely add to the final result.

The acting is definitely good, with eventual nod and winks to the public – getting some of the humour there, successfully so. The stage set is fabulous, and some of the best use of the lights is when it gives movements to the big ship on the stage sides. But by the end, when the lights and projections are not impressive anymore, comes the 4th act, the most weird, tacky, cheesy scene with long and boring music, cheap pseudo-Disney outfits and completely changes the (reasonably) fast pace of the play – again, with absolutely no gain.

Tastemaker

The Tempest was eye opening and spell bounding. The technical effects were mind-blowingly real and really enhanced what would have otherwise been a very static stage. I really enjoyed what was done and the boldness the RSC took. This is definitely a pioneering step forward for theatre and should appeal to a larger audience and age group. Simon Russell Beale is legendary in the theatre space and he did not disappoint once again. The rest of the cast was also top-notched and I really enjoyed every moment. This is held in the Barbican so the venue is huge. Try to sit in the stalls as the other levels feel way too far to notice the amazing detail of the costumes and set. 

Tastemaker

Although I have heard of The Tempest, I had no idea what the story was about beforehand apart from an educated guess that it might involve a storm in some form.  I've only started to see Shakespeare plays live over the last couple of years and have been impressed with how they can be adapted to modern day , so I was looking forward to seeing another one.


I have not been to the theatre in the Barbican before and I was really impressed with the layout of the theatre.  We were greeted with the shell of the boat on stage as we entered the theatre and creaking boat noises (or was this my imagination) could be heard sporadically until the performance started.


As I suspected, it started with a storm and really good effects made the boat appear to shake as the storm grew and it really looked as if the sides of the boat were moving.  The visual effects were stunning throughout, with a 'tube' coming down from the ceiling every now and then with surreal images and scenes displayed on it.  The effects were also cleverly used to give the appearance of a scene change even though the boat remains throughout.


As with a lot of Shakespeare, I only vaguely knew what was going on half the time, but  I knew enough to get the gist of it and it didn't in any way detract from my enjoyment.  The actors were superb, especially Ariel who I found myself observing as he wandered around in the background whilst the main scene was being played out.  I wondered whether his costume was based on Mandeville, the London 2012 Paralympic mascot!


Overall, it is a very good production and definitely one to watch.

tastemaker

When it comes to Shakespeare plays, you intuitively expect that it will be an ‘old school’ production with actors relaying poems and everyone is pretending that they can understand it fully without reading its storyline beforehand.

Oh boy, this play pushes all the boundaries of traditional Shakespeare plays very far. It’s so current, so technically avant-garde so the actual play is becoming somehow secondary. I totally admire traditional scripts using modern techniques however I believe the balance was a bit off as I purely enjoyed the modern twist of visual effects rather than the actual play but I expected I should have enjoyed both.

We all know the story of The Tempest and if you can explain in short it is a story of magic and love, right? Did I see any love on stage? No. I don’t think Miranda and Ferdinand have even managed to relay a connection. They were just talking monologues like they were rehearsing their lines. This was the biggest disappointment.

As for the magic, there were plenty of it and at points the whole audience were inhaling a gasp, as it was truly magical how all these visual effects were achieved. It was also topped up by an impeccable play of Ariel, who was the centre of the whole play.  

An absolutely enchanted production!

tastemaker

This production is a true feast for the senses. Visually it is simply stunning and I was in awe following the the effects across the stage and just completely fascinated by the magical world in the stage.

Unfortunately though this focus on artistry meant the rest of the performance felt pretty cold. I do not know this particular play but found the story unconvincing and characters one dimensional. The plot seemed so simplistic but Prospero's flitting between emotions completely confused me and the significance of the magic was completely lost on me.

Perhaps I have been spoilt by performances at The Globe, or maybe this play just lacks the structure of Shakespeare's others?

Either way there was just no atmosphere and no playful interaction with the audience.

It is worth watching for the staging alone, but I am glad I only invested in the £10 tickets.

tastemaker

With Shakespeare plays (because they are ubiquitous in our culture and contain difficult language), I look for two things: 1) The actors portray the lines in a way that it is easy to follow and 2) The production does something different with the text.


This production achieved both of these aspects splendidly.


First, the acting was phenomenal. I particularly enjoyed the portrayal of Caliban by Joe Dixon and Stephano by James Hayes. Having never read the play, I could easily follow the lines and there were numerous physical humour throughout the show that, to be cliche, 'brought the show alive.'


Second, I have never seen the level of stunning visual effects in another production. The use of lights, shadows, and digital imagery were flawlessly executed and gave a phenomenal visual aspect to the storytelling parts of the play that would not be able to be achieved without it. 


Thoroughly enjoyed this production and highly recommend -- especially if you are a stage/set fanatic! 

tastemaker

I really, really wanted to love this. But I just didn't. 


I adore the theatre, love going to watch plays and musicals, and relish in hiding from the real world for a few hours whilst I get transported to another life, another time, or even another world. However, with The Tempest, this just didn't happen. 


There's no denying the staging and effects are awe-inspiring. From the shipwreck to Ariel flying around the stage and transforming into all manner of mystic creatures it was fantastic. 


Sadly though this wasn't enough. There were moments of brilliance, don't get me wrong. Ariel was light on his feet, energetic and mischievous. 


Trinculo and Stephan were incredibly funny and lit up the stage. A wonderful performance. 


Everything else, however, was a bit lacklustre. Prospero, played by Simon Russell Beale, should have dominated the stage, captured the audience and conjured up ideas of magic beyond our wildest dreams. But he didn't. Miranda wasn't believable in her vulnerability. And all the other characters? Slightly unforgettable. 


I'm not a Shakespeare expert and maybe this is how it is meant to be. But for someone who wanted a fun, entertaining evening full of humour, drama and magic? I left feeling disappointed. 

tastemaker

The Tempest is quite a polarizing play, and I definitely fall more on the dislike side of the fence. That said, this is about as good as it can get for any performance of the Tempest. 


The staging and effects are obviously incredible. From the opening vignettes with the floating seamen being projected across the stage, to the climatic finishes with spirits and demons jumping around in-between: it really transforms this to something otherworldly. There were times I felt it was slightly over egged - the operatic wedding for me was a low, and during Prospero's monologue at the end it made you realise how much can be done with so little effects, lighting and sound.


Ariel really stole the slow, his performance was enigmatic and energetic, and watching him leap around the stage was such a joy. The actor had an incredible way of moving and transformed scenes throughout.

tastemaker

I studied theatre 15 years ago at college and any opportunity I get for theatre I take it.

When I was told about The Tempest at the Barbican I was really keen as shocker I've never seen a Shakespeare play live!

I didn't study this particular play so I knew nothing about it but I am confident to say now at least 12 hours have passed and I have worked it all out.

I would say this is one of the most technical productions I have seen on stage ever, how the set design team made the boat effect and also the graphics and general projection was amazing.

You cannot fault any of the actors, I really loved the part of the jester type character who brought some much needed humour to the play.

I have to admit you need to concentrate so I wouldn't recommend too many pre theatre drinks but it's certainly a 5 star review from me with kudos going to the tech team for bringing the stage to life.

tastemaker

The Tempest is not one of my favourite plays by Shakespeare but this version is definitely worth a watch. The clever use of digital CGI effects brings the whole play to life, making you feel like you are right there with them experiencing it all. 

My favourite part was the breath taking opera singing in the second half, with such a colourful and magical set to compliment it!

If you are familiar with the storyline you will definitely enjoy this, and if like me you have forgotten the plot then I recommend a quick google beforehand as the language used was quite hard to follow at times. 

If you have never seen a Shakespeare play performed then this performance of The Tempest is great place to start, especically as it is at The Barbican; an stunning and comfortable venue! Enjoy!

tastemaker

I enjoyed this performance of 'The Tempest'. The set and its lighting was amazing. And I loved the use of video for the magical scenes like that of the harpy. There were some very clever, synchronised parts like when Ariel the actor moved  together with the special affects.   The acting was superb with no overacting. I came to the theatre not knowing the story but from the performance understood what was going on and could follow it. I think this production would be a hit with any Shakespeare fan. It's a great performance in an awesome theatre.

Tastemaker

Fantastic performance, with amazing CGI effects. Ariel 100% was my favourite, from very serious moments when Prospero was talking to generally in the backround. His playful persona was incredibly enhanced by the digital features. Initially, when he came out I was convinced it was just going to be the Peter Pan-esque shadow, however the physical presence really made the whole production so magical.


I've never read The Tempest, or seen the production before, but I was extremely impressed (and confused at points!) Definitely not my favourite Shakespeare piece, but very engaging.


The only negative was Prospero's speaking was far too fast and quiet for me to hear/understand. Only certain words would be projected and emphasised, which helped me briefly piece the storyline together.


Overall, a magical night in an absolutely gorgeous theatre.



Tastemaker

What a totally magical and memorising production by the Royal Shakespeare Company of The Tempest at the Barbican. I only had a vague understanding of The Tempest so didn’t really know what to expect or was fully aware of the underlying story behind it. I must admit I ended up buying a programme in the interval to give me a bit more understanding behind the plot as it did get a little confusing. However the set design and production with real time and interactive effects by Intel and the Imaginarium Studios really made me sit up and notice and in my eyes propelled this production from good to amazing. The new stage technology really suited this play which is set on a magical island inhabited by spirits and so cleverly done. I especially enjoyed the scenes with Ariel and the Masque scene which was just an explosion of colours, gorgeous lighting schemes and backdrops which was stunningly beautiful to witness. The light projected on one of the goddess’ dress was almost like something out of an art installation and the sound effects were incredible throughout. Also I was fascinated that the digital character of Ariel was actually a live performance with sensors in his costume picking up all his movements, very impressive stuff. 

As with most Shakesphere, especially if I’m not so familiar with the storyline, it takes me a while to understand the plot behind his plays but the acting was superb and there were plenty of comedy moments as well. I’m not a massive fan of the storyline of The Tempest but all in all it was a marvellous production and credit must go to all involved. Definitely worth a watch and it’s exciting to see how much technology has moved on to enhance the audience experience seen on theatre and stage.
Tastemaker

An amazing production for this classic that is said to be the last play Shakespeare wrote by himself. The genious part here was the partnership with Intel, that makes for it to be way more than a play, with technological effects all over - from a suit that commands a holographic figurine to the glowing floor that is an attraction for itself. The majestic stage and effects are worth the ticket all on its own, but there's also some real talent on stage, making it a great combo. Sure, it's Shakespeare. Sure, it will be tough to understand and follow at times. But nothing like a little understanding of the story before handto allow you to follow everything that is on stage, and enjoy the great writer's tale with twists, turns and a little magic.

Tastemaker

The theatre is amazing, but that's a different review! When I walked in and saw the shipwreck on the stage and heard the creaking track, I knew I was in for a treat. I don't know anything about the Tempest. My friend and I had to google it before the show! Even then I struggled to sit through 2 hours and 40 minutes of trying to understand what a sentence meant! Although Ariel stole the show in the amazing suit that made the animation move a giant bird type creature on the screen, the butler, the clown and the monster where my favouite. Lots of good chuckles and even a few loud laughs. I can only guess that the cast was fabulous, but the effects were amazing. If you like Shakespeare it is well worth going to see. If you don't, google it before you start.ha


Absolutely mesmerizing performance. From the moment the play started I felt like I had a window into another world. While I think the projector was used to excess, the visuals were absolutely stunning, and on a level that I have never experienced in a live performance before. 


If the play would have been described to me, I would have said it would be impossible to produce on a stage. The cast and crew did a fantastic job bringing this play to life. 


tastemaker

Ok, I will begin by saying I had never heard the story of the Tempest. It wasn't something I did in school. When I told friends that I was going to see it everyone hyped it up on how amazing it is and that I will enjoy it so much. Unfortunately, this was not the case. I could not follow the story, I'm still not sure exactly what it was about. though impressive, the monologues were extremely long and I could focus on them. The set was very impressive and I loved the theatre but, the show itself was just not for me. 

tastemaker

The Tempest at the Barbican was a total surprise. The Barbican is one of the comfiest theatre's that I've been to. The seats are cushioned and all have a great view of the stage. We were sat at the back of the stalls and we could see the whole stage.

The play starts on board a ship heading for disaster. This ship forms the backdrop for the rest of the play and is utilised well throughout. It was quite difficult to hear what was going on at the start with all the sound effects, then add in the Shakespearean language and I was totally lost. It took me a while to get used to the language and follow what was happening but I'm glad I stuck with it. If you don't know the story - don't worry it gets easier to pick up as you continue to watch.

My favourite character was Ariel. He would appear and disappear so magically with a dancers grace! The special sound and lighting effects gave the production a modern edge with the projections on a gown being my favourite part. There are aspects of comedy engrained into the production distracting from the darkness of others parts.

I'd definitely recommend going to see this RSC adaption of the Tempest.

tastemaker

A very modern take on a classic. The set design was simply stunning with clever use of cgi/animation projected onto the stage.


Parts of the show were hard to follow - Prospero in particular talked too quickly, especially at the start, which made it a little tricky to keep up with some of the dialogue. (I would recommend reading up on the story beforehand if you don’t already know it, or you may struggle to understand what’s going on!)


Other actors certainly made up for this though with the portrayals of both Ariel and Caliban being my highlights. (The costume and makeup here was pretty impressive too.)


I did notice several people whose seats were empty for the second half, which was a shame as that’s where I felt things really got going with some fantastic musical performances. (These didn’t feel very Shakespearean to me - but, aside from sticking to the original script, this wasn’t exactly a traditional performance of a Shakespeare play.)


If you are a traditionalist when it comes to Shakespeare then this show might not be for you, but overall with the clever staging and some standout performances it was impressive to watch.

tastemaker

This production was a wonderful, modern rendition of Shakespeare's, 'The Tempest'. The characters and plot remain true to the original but the way it is presented incorporates a 21st century edge. I knew the play was going to be good from the minute I sat down and saw the stage layout. It feels like you are sitting directly in the middle of the ship's hull - able to see both sides of the ship, the sea as the backdrop, and the cracked floors. 


I loved the use of lighting, sound effects, and special effects (smoke and screens) throughout the play. This further enhanced the experience and truly made me feel like I was almost a part of the play. I liked that some characters provided comic relief because the play could be quite serious at certain points. As an audience, we were treated to an amazing performance by the whole cast and it wasn't a particularly long play - the perfect length in my opinion. 


I would definitely recommend seeing this play! Firstly, it's produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company and that's guaranteed a good show. Secondly, the cast was absolutely amazing - the emotions, the dedication, and the talent of all these actors will not disappoint. Thirdly, I liked that it included modern techniques and even though the dialogue remains original, it is not hard to follow and to understand the plot, even if you haven't read the play before!

tastemaker

When you first arrive in your seat, you are greeted by the impressive hulking carcass of a ship. The ship wreck scene on Prospero's island is designed to confuse and bewilder the audience as much as the unfortunate characters on the ship. Working with Intel and The Imaginarium Studios enables the production to convey the sense of mysticism prevalent throughout the entire play. Projected video assails the senses whilst Ariel's suit contains 17 sensors, battery packs and transmitters to enable the actor for Ariel (Mark Quartley) project other guises onto the large screen. Mark Quartley adds a feline grace to the role and complements his all powerful master, Prospero, wonderfully played by Simon Russell Beale. There are various plot lines. The adventures of drunken Stephano, Trifuno the crown, and the downtrodden Caliban are amusing. Sebastian and Alonso show their mendacity and indecision to entertaining effect whilst Gonzalo acts nobly but slightly pompously at times. Special mention must go to the costumes and operatic performances of Iris, Ceres and Juno. Simply spellbinding.

tastemaker

The Barbican has a fantastic theatre, super comfortable seats with great views from all aspects.

The Tempest was a wonderful visual treat and no matter how familiar or appreciative you are of Shakespeare, this play was engaging and well-performed from start to finish. The dialogue was a challenge at times and I'm sure I only caught about 75% but it had everything you'd want from daft horseplay to sombre monologues, breathing life into the heavy-going language.

The costume, set, lighting and motion graphics were all designed incredibly well and it was a wonderful play to watch.

The talent was endless and I really enjoyed it all.

tastemaker

There are many modern takes on Shakespeare (too many to count!), but this was an excellent twist - leaving Shakespeare's verse to be complimented by the fantastic technology and sound, it really added to the magic and fantasy of the play. 


The acting was fantastic, and even though it was a little hard to follow sometimes (due to the olde language), I was mesmerised by all of the actors' stage presence.Simon Trinder as Trinculo was a stand out for me, really bringing the belly laughs and his chemistry with Stephano and Caliban was brilliant. 


Simon Russell Beale is simply stunning when delivering monologues and it is worth seeing the play just for that!


The theatre itself is stunning - really comfortable seating, which you definitely need for the 3 hour + epic and even though I was right at the back in the stalls, the seats are staggered in such a way that you can see everything on stage, which I was glad of, because the set was incredible!

tastemaker

The Tempest will always be the Tempest. Its the same words and motions right? Wrong. 


Yes of course the storyline doesnt change but the reason this gets 4 stars is because the director and the visions of what they can do in the next generation of theatre. The set is amazing and you are listerally blown away by the amazing first scene of the ship breaking up. You then forget all about this when you are then whisked into another scene on the beach with Miranda. 


The acting was wonderful but perhaps slightly spoilt, I would expect nothing less from the RSC. 


Even if youre not a Shakespeare fan you will be mesmerised and a special shout out to the Barbicab as the seats are super comfy. 

tastemaker

The mise en scene is amazing. Properly amazing. The décor is splendid and there are a lot of lights games and animations along the play.


My only reserve is that I was not hearing well at the beginning which made it hard for me to enter into the story which was actually a bit complicated to get.

Loads of people around us had to check the plot on internet if they hadn’t read it before.


Personally, I am not a native English person, even though, I always thought my English understanding and speaking was pretty good and I often go to theater, but I had loads of issue understanding everything what was said because of the old English text.


That is a shame because I believe it spoiled the experience.

Shakespeare is probably a bit hard if you never read it before and you are not a native speaker.

Tastemaker

Oh I don't want to ruin it for you...oh but I have to tell you all about it!


Oh my, oh my, THE SET IS AMAZEBALLS. It opens in the bowels of a ship racing towards certain destruction which is dashed on an island and it is the most spectacular sight to behold with sound effects and a light show creating the devastating storm. It is so impressive that you may forget to listen to the dialogue in fact. 


The wooden boat structure provides the backdrop for the play but layered on top is a beautiful modern digital vision with Ariel beamed in centre stage and scenes changing effortlessly behind the characters. 


The costumes are also a sight to behold, coming to life with imaginative designs, like Ariel (think pastel body suit with muscles painted on the outside) and Caliban (think Shrek meets Quasimodo grasping a fish). 


The characters were fantastic with Prospero and Ariel being my favourites. I was holding my breath waiting for my two favourite lines from this play, 'What's past is prologue' and “We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep." 


It was a little out of step when the three Fairy God Mothers turned up to sing to the new couple a la Disney but this sprinkling of magic didn’t stop my enjoyment of this Shakespeare classic.


Also worth noting, the theatre itself is cool and comfortable with large seats and sloped so that everyone can see. I’ve been to plenty of London theatres to know that Barbican is one of the best I’ve seen!

tastemaker

Having never read or studied the play before I was a bit worried that I might lose focus or just switch off - I have been to plenty of mediocre Shakespeare performances in the past that are a struggle to understand and sit through. But thankfully there was no chance of that happening with this production.

Firstly the staging is compelling, innovative and vast- it uses the full breadth of space in the Barbican theatre that really helps to serve the story, which of course has so many fantasy elements. The use of projection and technology is like nothing I've seen on stage before.

The cast - led by legendary stage actor Simon Russell Beale- really throw everything into it with regular moments of brilliant humour and real pathos. Each one of them is completely believable and fascinating to watch.

Whilst I couldn’t follow the script perfectly (it's in that Shakespearean English I've never been able to understand!) the physicality and staging still kept the story flow and be engaging despite it being nearly 3 hours.

The greatest plaudit I can give the play is that it’s now inspired me to read it properly!

tastemaker

Visually stunning play with comedy scenes which at times a little difficult to follow due to heavy Shakespearean script. The set was amazing and modern. Brilliant lighting and projections transformed the stage from the forest, the village, to the sea. The star of this play is undoubtedly Simon Russell Beale (Prospero). His acting was very powerful; while Ariel (Mark Quartley) was mesmerizing - his energetic movements projected to the screen gave a magical feeling. At one time he projected himself as a giant bird like creature, and at another time he projected himself flying in the air. He is easily my favourite character in this play. Overall, this play is a spectacle due to brilliant projections, music and fairy like movements. However, due to the complex English language used, it is better if one reads up about the storyline prior to attending so that the storyline could be followed easily.

tastemaker

Shakespeare does not do two things; he does not do ease of language and he does not do brevity. So three hours later it is time to assess. The opening storm is nothing short of miraculous. Imaginarium Studios really did work their magic. You need to know the story prior to seeing it on stage because to focus constantly throughout, is difficult. The light-hearted moments are a joy. Trinculo, Caliban and Ferdinand work well together. Trinculo, (Simon Trinder), has a delightful, clownish streak. The larger than life Caliban (Joe Dixon), has stage presence. Mark Quartley played Ariel with an other worldliness that inspired the ethereal. The operatic singing by sopranos Samantha Hay and Jennifer Wilton was a joy. The set of a ship's carcass opening onto the audience was extremely effective especially with lights giving the appearance of gentle movement in the water. But the speeches, occasional soliloquies and more heavy language did not make the time pass quickly.

Next time I decide to further my Shakespearean knowledge, I shall study and research the play, learn a few quotes, read some 'A' level books (make that a synopsis for children), and hope to step up to the mark. It was probably me who was lacking, not the play!

tastemaker

One of London’s most creative hubs and one of my favourite spots in the city, a play at the Barbican is probably going to be a good one. The Tempest though beat all expectations. The theatre itself is incredible and very clearly designed. When the row doors close you feel totally immersed in the show at front.


The excellent acting aside – Mark Quartley as the majestic Ariel and Joe Dixon as the hilariously blundering Caliban were fantastic – this play is visually spectacular. The set is designed to look like a wrecked ship and this doesn’t change, yet every scene does change thanks to the cleaver lighting designs and the use of productions and screens, which brings the stage to life – think the stage alterative to a 3D film without the irritating glasses.


Combining Shakespeare with modern technology and humour, the cast kept me tuned in throughout, although during some particularly majestic scenes, filled with light, colour and music, I did find myself in a sort of trance – never before has a play made like I am actually there rather than just a spectator.


It was an excellent play and I would highly recommend. Not necessarily as an adaption of a Shakespearean classic, but certainly as an impressive and surprising stage show. 

tastemaker

Doran's "The Tempest" is akin to an experimental recipe where one too many strong ingredients were added and created conflict rather than contrast.


There are many forms of art brought together in this performance and though brilliantly executed in their own right, when combined, they fought for our attention and love.


At the start, the tech heavy set (brilliant!) crackles loudly with the clamor of thunder and obfuscates the dialogue. That was when first I felt cheated of the wit and eloquence one expects from a Shakespearean play. Sadly it happened repeatedly throughout the two hours of the performance. In a mish mash of dialogue, music, dance, opera, and monologues, I found myself losing interest when it became clear that I wouldn't be able to follow what was happening on stage.


I am a fan of experimentation in almost all things and I came with an open mind and spirit hoping to be delighted and fall in love with the performance. Sadly that didn't happen.


Whilst I enjoyed the individual performances, this had the feeling of a variety show disguised as theatre and it just doesn't work when you're attempting to enjoy Shakespeare's work.

tastemaker

I had read The Tempest at school during my GCSE days, so I kind of got the gist of it 16 years later. The one thing I really like is how a shakespeare play can be brought into modern times. The projection mapping thanks to The Imaginarium Studios was impressive, it brought the whole play to life. 


The set and costumes were superb, the opera singing was impeccable. Definitely a must see for those who want to understand shakespeare a lot more better. 


Simon Russell Beale's performance was impressive, he brought life to the whole play! 

Tastemaker

Shakespeare may be classic texts and prose but not many people think they can get on board and it can have a reputation of being long and boring. Thanks to Imaginarium Studios collaborating on this one, this telling of The Tempest could certainly be of interest to people who also demand the kind of visuals they would expect in a West End musical, with projection mapping, very clever live performance capture thanks to Ariel's morph suit and a huge skeleton of a crashed ship framing the whole thing. The comedy is dialled up when Prospero's slave meets a drunkard who survived the shipwreck and a clown, who seek to murder his master and be free, and the tale of the other ship mates who crash and their plots against each other are also funny at times. The first half before the interval is 90 minutes which is about what I'd expect for a Shakespeare play, with prose and effects combining for a visual and aural treat. The second half is a little shorter at just over an hour and at one point I thought I was watching Wicked, when three operatic ladies came on the stage and the projectors puked so much colour onto the stage I didn't know where to look! I almost expected some Munchkins to run onto the stage! Certainly a great technical feat with great performances. If you would like an introduction to Shakespeare and want a fairly simple plot about a bitter magical man who controls the weather and the sprites around him, this could be the one for you.

tastemaker

I'd never read or seen The Tempest but I knew the general gist of the story. I'm so glad I went to see this version at the Barbican. The great acting and creative digital imagery along with the clever set design truly brought this Shakespeare classic to life and up to date for the digital effects savvy age.

Looked great and played out really well. I'm not a big Shakespeare lover but with versions like this I could be swayed towards fandom.

Tastemaker

A haunting, epic production that combines the lyrical magic of Shakespeare's language with the wonder of technology. Mark Quartley's delicate, acrobatic Ariel is beautifully mirrored in the ethereal depiction of his computer generated form. 


Simon Russell Beale's gravity as Prospero ensures that the technology does not overpower the production and, to me, provides evidence that the emotional intensity that Shakespeare's verse incites can only be portrayed by a living, breathing actor. The technology might be fun but an audience continues to look towards the actor.


Further evidence of the enduring quality of simple stagecraft can be seen in moments such as the tormenting of Caliban whether it be through the mischievous antics of the island's sprites robbing him of his wood or the tussle with Trinculo under his rotten gabardine, or the phantasmagorical wedding blessing from the goddesses.


The Tempest has long been seen by critics as a play concerned with the power of theatrical illusion and the nature of the playmaker's 'art'. This fascinating production is no exception.

tastemaker

The exceptional, marvellous production that is 'The Tempest' at the Barbican Centre was an absolute blast. Thank you to the Royal Shakespeare Company and to Intel for creating such a diverse, imaginative play.

This is one of my all time favourite Shakespeare plays.

The enormous interior of a ship is the magnificent centre piece of the stage and it's the first thing you see when seated in the auditorium.

I absolutely adored the cracking, fracturing sounds in which we entered.

If you look at it in more detail, you notice the ship moving from side to side. The projections really looked quite magical.

This definitely gave the audience in the auditorium an atmospheric experience. It was a great start to the show.

The director has created a classic Shakespeare story and brought it to life with such visionary images and designs.

The projected images and the dark, mysterious sounds really add depth and detail to this play.

The cast are an incredible bunch and it definitely had its mad moments.

It made me laugh very much. Some characters are completely bonkers.

I do like the technological twist on this set. It makes it modern and exciting.

I was transfixed all the way through, but I must say that the curtains used to project the images could of been manipulated in another way.

I'm sure that there are ways to make the curtains not so visible as it did distract my attention a little.

There was a particular scene that I found a little all over place. The projected images of what looked like Rottweilers didn't quite go to plan. A little bit of a mess.

Apart from that it was captivating and visually stunning.

It is a beautifully crafted play and incredibly well thought about. The costumes were a dream and impeccably presented. I loved the Spirits costumes.

Prospero (Simon Russell Beale) is powerful, strong and displays a quality like no other.

Miranda (Jenny Rainsford), Prospero's daughter is sweet and plays her part exquisitely well.

Caliban (Joe Dixon), was rather vigorous and impressive. His costume did look silly, but it fitted well within his part.

Stephano (James Hayes), the Kings butler & Trinculo (Simon Trinder), the jester are bloody marvellous. I laughed so much, they're completely off with their heads. Simply mad and brilliant. They each captured the character perfectly.

I thought the male cast was strong, but I have to mention one that stood out for me the most.

Ariel (Mark Quartley), Prospero's spirit who wanted nothing more than to be free.

He oozes such an extraordinary presence on stage and his energy is truly intoxicating.

His movement and actions are of a peculiar quality that I admired.

He played that part impressively well at all times, even with the projections. He is visibly striking in every scene.

I did enjoy the Spirits dancing sequence which added mysterious side to the play.

I was also enchanted by the three extravagant, opera singing goddesses.

The costumes were to die for. What an absolute joy to see such fluidity and beauty in Iris, Ceres and Juno who create a harmonious scene of art and creativity.

Each actor display such emphasis towards their speech. The tone and the movement is executed with delicacy, but at the same time with power.

I highly recommend you go and see this inspiring production. I loved it.

#TOTastemaker

Love MD.

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Another dull outing for the RSC under the dead hand of Greg Doran. The ghastly death march which began with his borefest of Richard II ludicrously miscast with the talent vaccum that is David Tennant through his risible Henriad and now the tedium of the Roman cycle, continues.  Although some new fangled hi tech has been sprinkled across the production underneath, it's the same slavish adherence to literalism which has marked out Doran's tenure at the expense of imagination and light.


Do yourself a favour and visit The Globe. Their Summer of Love continues with the best and most exciting Much Ado in years and a Twelfth Night that will leave a huge smile on your face.


The RSC has surely reached complete irrelevance now and while the educational arm has some merit, the production side is utterly threadbare. The Board need a complete clean out and put some real people up there, not washed up luvvies and pearl clutchers.


Doran MUST go!