This new production of The Tempest, in association with South Africa's Baxter Theatre Centre, continues the legacy of the 2006 Complete Works Festival as the RSC develops creative partnerships with theatre companies from around the world.
Having been usurped by his brother Antonio (Lionel Newton), as the rightful Duke of Milan, Prospero (Anthony Sher) is cast to sea. He lands on a remote island, once ruled by the witch Sycorax but now uninhabited except for her only son, Caliban and a number of spirits. Prospero releases a spirit named Ariel (Atandwa Kani), who had been enslaved and imprisoned by Sycorax, and the spirit remains in Prospero’s service. And when Antonio is seen in a passing ship Prospero sees his chance to exact his revenge, employing Ariel to create a tempest that will surely shipwreck his brother bringing him also to the island.
Janice Honeyman’s direction is simply brilliant, as is the work of Illka Louw (Design), Mannie Manim (Lighting), Neo Muyanga (Music & Sound) and Janni Younge (Pupperty).
The set and costume design is magnificent. I’ve never seen a more beautifully decorated stage and the spirits were brought passionately to life with a myriad of colours and inspired carnival-esque puppetry. The traditions and mythology of Africa play a large part in the inspiration of the costumes, puppetry and music and it looks and sounds fantastic.
The powerful performances of Anthony Sher, as Prospero, and Atandwa Kani, as Ariel, dominate the action with impressive support from John Kani, as Caliban. Elton Landrew and Wayne Van Rooyen offer good comic relief as Stephano, the drunken butler and Trinculo, the jester.
Also on hand is a live band and a chorus of which gives the production real atmosphere.
This is without doubt the most colourful, lively and visually entertaining productions of a Shakespeare play that I have ever seen. All of which ensure that The Tempest is well worth the admission price – indeed it comes highly recommended.
The Tempest (Royal Shakespeare Company) plays at Nottingham's Theatre Royal from Tuesday 14 April to Saturday 17 April 2008.