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The Tempest at Shakespeare’s Globe

The closest thing to time travel for any theatre lover must be the Globe Theatre on London’s South Bank. A spellbinding recreation of the original Globe it’s always a thrill to walk in on a summer night with hundreds of other pilgrims in awed anticipation of the play about to start. Last night’s performance of The Tempest was sold out. The atmosphere was spine-tingling and the connection between the audience and the cast was electric. The audience wanted to enjoy themselves and the cast wanted to entertain. It was a two-way win-win dynamic. The catwalk thrust stage added an extra layer to this bond as it meant that the actors were surrounded on three sides by the groundlings. It’s a very special venue which is unique and truly inspiring.

Patrick Osborne and Katy Stephens in The Tempest at Shakespeare's Globe (credit Marc Brenner).
Patrick Osborne and Katy Stephens in The Tempest at Shakespeare’s Globe (credit Marc Brenner).

Artistic director Sean Holmes has a clear vision for his production of The Tempest. He goes all out to present the play as a comedy. It’s The Tempest as The Comedy of Errors. Weaving together snatches of slapstick, farce, horseplay, Carry on up the Tempest, Love Island, Treasure Island, Desert Island Discs, Noises Off, Harry Potter and the Keystone Cops he has created a play of extraordinary vitality and originality.

The play is visually stunning. The use of colour in both the costumes and props gives the play a dream-like quality. This is entirely appropriate as we are on a desert island and in many ways in a dream-like state. New ways are found to tell the story. A glass box stands in for the ship, when a plane flys overhead Stefano cries “I’m down here“, a McDonald’s takeaway replaces the banquet, a red lobster inflatable doubles as a four-legged two-headed monster, large yellow Lego boxes stand in for rafts, business suits stand in for court finery. The search for new ways to tell the story runs all the way through the production. This is surely right. We must find new ways to re-present the plays to new audiences. It’s entertainment and show business. People want to be entertained not bored to death. As I walked down the stairs of the North Tower I heard a young man next to me quote the lines “We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” An experience that can leave that impression on a young person’s mind has my endorsement any day of the week.

The performances from the Globe Ensemble are terrific. Ferdy Roberts as Prospero is wonderful. He plays the part in his Speedos which is fair enough as he’s on a desert island. He gets a laugh when he delivers the line “… and fine costumes…” and touches his trunks. Prospero is Shakespeare and Ferdy delivers the lines often seen as Shakespeare’s farewell to the theatre with great depth of feeling and tenderness. Ferdinand and Miranda provide the romantic Romeo and Juliet plot. Olivier Huband is a knowing and very likeable Ferdinand. Nadi Kemp-Sayfi convinces as a 15-year-old who loves at first sight. Delivering the line “O Brave new world that has such people in it!” she gives it an extra kick by looking at and gesturing to the audience. Another example of the audience / actor dynamic that the Globe fosters. Trinculo, (Ralph Davis) Stefano (George Fouracres) and Caliban (Ciaran O’Brien) make a marvellous comic trio. Drunk on wine, they concoct the most absurd and foolish plot. For my money they steal the show, it’s comic acting at its best. Rachel Hannah Clarke is a lively and winning Ariel doing her many tasks but always reminding Prospero that she wants her freedom. The music she magics into life is haunting played by Midori Jaeger on the Cello. Directed by Rio Kai on the double bass. As dusk turns to night the music envelopes the Globe in a most magically marvellous way. Our revels now are ended… and so is this review.

4 stars

Review by John O’Brien

The stage is set for a tumultuous new production of The Tempest, Shakespeare’s tale of reckoning and redemption, this summer in the Globe Theatre.

For powerful Prospero’s opening act of revenge, he raises a ferocious storm to shipwreck a crew of men – including his usurping brother – onto the remote island he now rules.

His unwitting cast is now in position and, with reluctant support from the island’s colonised inhabitants, Prospero’s designs of magical and emotional manipulation unfurl with life-changing force.

Get ready to be shaken by Shakespeare’s most elemental comedy, brought to life by the 2022 Globe Ensemble with direction from Associate Artistic Director Sean Holmes (A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Twelfth Night, Globe).

Introducing The Tempest cast & creatives
Peter Bourke – GONZALO
Rachel Hannah Clarke – ARIEL
Ralph Davis – TRINCULO
George Fouracres – STEFANO
Joanne Howarth – FRANCISCO
Olivier Huband – FERDINAND
Nadi Kemp-Sayfi  - MIRANDA
Ciarán O’Brien – CALIBAN
Patrick Osborne – ANTONIO
Lucy Phelps – SEBASTIAN
Ferdy Roberts – PROSPERO
Katy Stephens – ALONSO

Musical Director / Double Bass – Rio Kai
Percussion – Magnus Mehta
Guitar – Shirley Tetteh
Recorder – Olivia Petryszak
Cello – Midori Jaeger
Assistant Director – Naeem Hayat
Casting Director – Becky Paris
Co-Director – Diane Page
Composer – Cassie Kinoshi
Costume Supervisor – Jackie Orton
Design Associate – Sandra Falase
Designer – Paul Wills
Director – Sean Holmes
Dramaturg – Zoë Svendsen
Fight Director – Maisie Carter
Globe Associate – Movement – Glynn MacDonald
Movement Director – Rachael Nanyonjo
Text Associate – Christine Schmidle
Voice Associate – Tess Dignan

The Tempest
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, London
Booking to 22nd October 2022

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  • John OBrien

    JOHN O’BRIEN born in London in 1960 is a born and bred Londoner. His mother was an illiterate Irish traveller. His early years were spent in Ladbroke Grove. He was born at number 40 Lancaster Road. In 1967 the family was rehoused in Hackney. He attended Brooke House School for Boys in Clapton, - as did Lord Sugar. He became head boy and was the first person in his family to make it to university, gaining a place at Goldsmiths College in 1978. He took a degree in Sociology and a PGCE . From 1982 until 1993 he taught at schools in Hackney and Richmond. In 1984-85 he attended Bristol University where he gained a Diploma in Social Administration. From 1985 until 1989 he studied part-time in the evenings for a degree in English Literature at Birkbeck College. He stayed on at Birkbeck from 1990-1992 to study for an MA in Modern English Literature. He left teaching in 1993 and has worked as a tutor, researcher, writer and tour guide. He leads bespoke guided tours on London’s history, art , architecture and culture. He has attended numerous courses at Oxford University - Exeter College, Rewley House & Kellogg College. In London, he attends courses at Gresham College, The National Gallery, The British Museum, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, The British Academy and The Royal Society. Read the latest London theatre reviews by all reviewers.

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