The Tempest at Shakespeare’s Globe
Dream logic abounds in The Tempest, which is given an energetic new runaround by the Globe Touring Ensemble. With a limited cast and no set to speak of, this production will tour the country much like Shakespeare’s company did in the 1600s – with the addition of hotel WiFi.
In the famous playwright’s penultimate piece (one of his loosest narratives) Prospero (Mark Desebrock, likeable but too young for the role) is a sorcerer who controls the unnamed tropical island on which he was stranded 12 years ago with his daughter Miranda (Sara Lessore). But when a ship washes ashore containing Neopolitan royalty – including the protagonist’s wicked brother Antonio the usurper (Hamilton’s Stephenson Ardern-Sodje, who also plays the naughty slave-creature Caliban) – chaos begins to reign as the enchanter attempts to right the wrongs of the past, while letting go of his blossoming daughter. The tale’s dreamily motivated mystery has left a clear mark on much popular culture, from Twin Peaks to the similarly island-set video game The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.
The plot, convoluted, contradictory and never entirely compelling, is a mere coathanger for some of Shakespeare’s most vivid antics. Emma Ernest plays Ariel, the sprite, who appears with Freddy Krueger-like claws and terrifies the castaways. She is depicted as a Rastafarian with white dreadlocks, singing and shredding the saxophone as she beguiles her prey. As foolish shipmates Tinculo and Gonzalo, Colm Gormley is easily the standout performer, being more playful and expressive than many of the cast, who often seem to be holding back.
Without a set, it is the imaginations of the actors and audience that light The Tempest up. This not-quite socially distanced take on the material strips back the theatrics to focus on the poetry of the original language, however the results are mixed. There is a power to hearing the lyrical verses read with such simple clarity, but one wishes for a sense of cohesion or a real oneiric breakthrough that never comes. This gives this production more value as a throwback experience – “see one of The Bard’s most famous comedies as it would have been performed” – than as a truly innovative piece that will translate the text for a contemporary audience.
Photo: Marc Brenner
The Tempest is at Shakespeare’s Globe from 9th July until 29th August 2021. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.