The Tempest at Shakespeare’s Globe review: Some rough edges but a sunny delight

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3-min read
The Tempest at Shakespeare’s Globe review: Some rough edges but a sunny delight
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

In what must surely be a first, Ferdy Roberts, as Shakespeare’s marooned wizard Prospero, spends most of this lucid, playful production wearing just loafers and bright yellow budgie-smuggler swimming trunks. The sartorial Love Island vibe also affects his daughter Miranda, who sports a frilly, Barbie-pink two-piece on a series of beach inflatables. Given the current weather, the other actors – playing noblemen in business suits and spirits in rhinestone cowgirl outfits or flowery jumpsuits – must be jealous.

Though stylised throughout, Sean Holmes’s staging presents the narrative as clearly as I’ve ever seen it: this is very much the island love story of Miranda and Ferdinand, as well as a rollicking comedy and a tale of revenge.

In the titular opening storm, Rachel Hannah Clarke’s impish Ariel directs a sprinkler hose over the distressed boatswain, while his aristocratic passengers booze and bray in a perspex box. It emphasises their separation, a fishtank of privilege. Subsequently, they are washed ashore in a series of large yellow crates that then stand in for a jacuzzi, a banqueting table, or a dressing up box. Rather than fetch firewood to prove himself to Prospero, Olivier Huband’s steadfast Ferdinand cleans up beach litter, and a cargo-spill of rubber ducks.

The eye-rolling affection between Nadi Kemp-Sayfi’s quizzical Miranda and her father is nicely captured, as is the sudden, convincing passion between her and Ferdinand, the second man she ever saw. (Her isolation, and that of Caliban, here played as a threadbare incel pool boy by Ciarán O’Brien, is powerfully communicated.) There’s also a lovely unspoken complicity between Prospero and Ariel, and between Ariel and the audience.

The Globe Ensemble in The Tempest (Marc Brenner)
The Globe Ensemble in The Tempest (Marc Brenner)

Holmes regularly places either the wizard or his spirit servant on the catwalk in front of the stage, surveying the action. It shows us that they’re in control of the puny humans before them, but it also means we spend a lot of time craning to see around one or other set of buttocks.

The scene where Ariel and the spirits conjure up a fast-food feast for the nobles is a neat bit of staging, and the masque interlude, where they bless the young couple’s relationship, is brilliantly reimagined as a fertility rite that almost tips over into an outright orgy.

Roberts’s fiery, leonine Prospero occasionally goes over the top, but his is a bold and literally exposing performance (thankfully his line “I will here discase me” is a cue for him to put more clothes on, rather than take more off). The scenes with the noblemen are laboured, though again, the narrative of betrayal and displacement is limpidly clear.

George Fouracres, a Globe asset and probably the finest comic Shakespearean working today, gives yet another scene-stealing turn as drunken butler Stefano, alongside Ralph Davis’s hangdog Trinculo. They and Caliban are sent barking mad by Ariel, though the introduction of Harry Potter outfits to their humiliation is a stylistic quirk too far. It’s got some rough edges, and some of its conceits don’t work, but overall, this show is a sunny delight.

Shakespeare’s Globe, to 22 October; shakespearesglobe.com

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting