Jonathan Slinger as Prospero and Sandy Grierson as Ariel in The Tempest
Published: 21 June, 2012
by PAVAN AMARA
THE TEMPEST at The Roundhouse
JONATHAN Slinger’s Prospero is not the bearded, magical figure you might expect in this production.
The role is accentuated to highlight his place as a society figure, more so than many of us might be used to with other productions of The Tempest.
The other performances instinctively play into this hierarchy, which absorb the social frustrations on the shipwrecked island, fitting well with the contemporary feel around this production.
The set is stark, with none of the usual focus on natural elements or majestic lighting.
Characters enter and exit from a cell on stage, which also works well as a place of retreat for Prospero – maybe revealing a strong sense of the character’s inclination to isolate himself.
The spirits appear more subservient than in comparable productions, with darker aspects of the play being emphasised more than is usual.
The Roundhouse is a fitting venue for the play, a beam used to stream lights onto the stage doubles up as a ship’s mast. The audience has enough space from the circular stage to watch from a comfortable distance rather than feel like an extension of the set, as in the intimate Stratford-Upon-Avon theatre that is the RSC’s home.
Compared to other London venues, such as Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre or The Globe, the audience at The Roundhouse doesn’t have to worry about contending with unpredictable weather conditions.
While a few spectators may have regarded the set too simple, it served to keep a solid focus on the acting and stayed true to its Jacobean roots, which would have kept any adornments to a minimum.
There are no big effects, merely the litter of a shipwreck, with occasional grand moments – namely Ariel emerging from the sky.
This authenticity contrasts with the costume department’s silk ruffs, feathers and Elizabethan carcanet jewellery, but doesn’t seem jarring.
The shape the actors take on the stage is clear, sharp, and, like the rest of the play, unclouded by anything too intricate.
Felix Hayes’ comedic timing as Trinculo is excellent, as is Bruce Mackinnon’s noticeably Russell Brand-esque Stephano, but the chemistry between these two characters and Amer Hlehel’s Calaban is unparalleled.
On the night I went, a mobile phone began ringing at the most unfortunate time – in the final moments, in the middle of Prospero’s final soliloquy – but even then Slinger managed to hold his own to the point that the audience remained captivated.
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