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A CurtainUp London Review
It is the first time I remember being in the Upper Gallery, high above the magnificent Globe stage. On a fine day in London, despite the annoyance of the initially almost incessant helicopters ferrying Beyoncé and VIPs to her gig at the O2, there is no spectacle to beat a Shakespeare play in the open air in a reproduction Jacobean theatre, close to the site where Shakespeare's company of actors would have played 500 years ago. The island rocks are red but marbled with white and grey like the two enormous pillars which flank the Globe playing area and Caliban (Globe veteran James Garnon) has a costume marbling his body red and white reminding us that he is of the island. Television's Merlin Colin Morgan plays the ethereal and agile spirit Ariel, who watches from the balcony and every other secret place.
Jeremy Herrin's production shows us a softer Prospero, a caring father who tells us that it is his child who kept him alive when he arrived on the island. “O, a cherubim thou wast that did preserve me.” This Prospero is not so much a controlling magician but a man of humour and intelligence. The play is not my personal favourite of the Shakespeare comedies, with long periods of drunken entertainment with jester Trinculo (Trevor Fox) finding fish from the shipwreck about his person, Stephano (Sam Cox) and Caliban but this coarse comedy is ideally suited to the Globe's groundlings in the Pit. I always dislike the ritual of the Ceres Masque before the nuptials of Ferdinand and Miranda. The masque here would not look out of place in Indonesia with the golden helmet headdresses and floral and feathered stand up collars and is underwhelming.
There is however plenty of other spectacle, the model sailing boat carried aloft through the pit as the ship is wrecked in the storm with the cast falling about like the cast of Star Trek with thunder sheets of loud effect and much pulling on the ropes. There is a 20 feet wingspan phoenix bird arising from the flames and the skeletal dogs attacking the three rebels. But this Tempest will be most remembered for Roger Allam's likeable, witty and beautifully spoken Prospero, full of humour. Prospero's magic is less significant but we saw him containing Ferdinand (Joshua James)'s attempts at swordplay and there is great emphasis on Miranda's virgin knot not being tampered with before their wedding day. Jessie Buckley and Joshua James are charming as the lovers.
The Globe have just announced that their Jacobean indoor theatre, the Sam Wannamaker Theatre, which will be candlelit, will open for business in January 2014. After the Apollo winter season of Richard III and Twelfth Night using original practices, I am really looking forward to this exciting new venture
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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