nick730 (nick730) wrote,

Theatre review: The Tempest (The Bridge Project)

I was unimpressed to say the least by the first leg of this year's Bridge Project at the Old Vic, so what would I think of the production it's been paired with? This time it's Shakespeare's final solo play, and although Sam Mendes maintains a rather sombre tone once more, at least The Tempest is a play that suits that treatment. I felt the sad, discordant music that overlays much of the action was a step too far, and found it irritating pretty quickly, but otherwise the way the action on Tom Piper's set revolves around a central sand circle conveys a nice sense of gentle, eerie magic.

While I didn't mind Mendes' approach, this time it was Stephen Dillane as Prospero who I couldn't warm to - his performance is downright soporific, which is especially a problem as we're barely into the play when he has a lengthy expositionary speech that's hard work at the best of times. It's a shame because there's hints of a particularly sinister Prospero here, a very manipulative one who was also clearly a terrible Duke of Milan, so uninterested in ruling that he didn't notice he was being usurped until after the event, so him regaining power at the end is surely a mixed blessing at best. Unfortunately Dillane doesn't make you care about the character enough to look into these more deeply.

Fortunately there's a lot of other good performances here. Juliet Rylance and the ever-reliable Edward Bennett make Miranda and Ferdinand instantly likeable and very funny, while the show's other laughs come of course from the drunks, Anthony O'Donnell a bumbling, very Welsh Trinculo, while Thomas Sadosky is much better cast here as Stephano, and brings the laughs his Touchstone was missing. Christopher and I disagreed a bit in our interpretation of Christian Camargo's androgynous Ariel; I found his subservience and robotic speech to almost have hints of him being mentally disabled - for once, instead of being an excuse for more exposition that shows Prospero as being rather patronising, it seemed as if him being told his own life story again because he forgets it every so often was actually the case. My theatre companion for the evening didn't see it this way though, but in any case it was an interesting portrayal. Christopher said he enjoyed it but did add that it reminded him how much he loves the play itself, and it was this rather than the specific production that made it a good night at the theatre for him. Oh and we both agreed that the projection of a home movie during the wedding scene was just baffling. I should note that the performance we went to happened to be the one with captioning for the deaf, and that this was actually relevant at times because diction was still sometimes an issue, so having the lines flash up on a screen was sometimes necessary, but obviously most audiences won't have that.

It's also worth knowing in advance that this production doesn't have an interval. There have been some cuts but it still runs for 2hrs 20 minutes straight. I was prepared and hadn't drunk much before the show but I noted a lot of people having to dash off to the loo once we neared the 2hr mark. So overall this was a decent but not outstanding show.

The Tempest by William Shakespeare is in repertory until the 21st of August at the Old Vic.
Tags: edward bennett, shakespeare, the tempest, theatre, theatre reviews

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