BBC Culture in Quarantine: The Tempest at Shakespeare’s Globe Online
Providing us with yet more theatre to watch online during the quarantine, BBC iPlayer is now presenting numerous Shakespeare plays from various venues for free as part of the project Culture in Quarantine: Shakespeare. This production of The Tempest was performed at the Globe in 2013. With traditional staging but an unconventional focus on the lighter tones of the play, it proves a warm production with some fine performances – even if it does gloss over some of the darker and more serious themes.
It is not a secret that a lot of this production’s strength stems from the power of Roger Allam’s portrayal of Prospero. Unlike the usual authoritarian tyrant or belittling schoolteacher, here we have a warm-hearted, utterly likeable Prospero, oozing paternal virtues and presenting himself as a merciful father-figure – almost to the extent that it makes one doubt his capability of enslaving Caliban and Ariel.
But the rest of the cast are similarly strong. James Garnon’s Caliban is wonderfully hateful and spiteful throughout, whereas Colin Morgan’s Ariel is beautifully airy and strange – forming a lovely duo of otherworldly spirits. Jessie Buckley as Miranda and Joshua James as Ferdinand are also convincing throughout and show adorable chemistry on stage.
The production – directed by Jeremy Herrin – is very traditional. All actors wear early modern costumes and the stage – designed by Max Jones – features staircases, woodwork and rocks – nothing particularly exciting, but pretty and subtle enough not to distract from the action; the sound design by Stephen Warbeck and Rob Millett is subtle and effective.
All this adds to a generally pleasant take on Shakespeare’s play. It is light-hearted and often focuses on the jolly, funny and tender moments, rather than the grittier themes of slavery and colonisation which are so often the central theme of contemporary productions of The Tempest. This doesn’t mean that it’s wrong or bad, by any stretch of the imagination – quite the contrary – but merely that it’s unusual in our day and age.
As such, this production of The Tempest is a joy to watch. It may divert from the play’s more serious themes, but it is nevertheless strong, and features some stellar performances which make this an easy recommendation for all.
Photo: Marc Brenner
Watch an excerpt from The Tempest here: