I am a long term fan of Shakespeare’s Globe. I bought a brick for £5 when it was being built in 1996, and having now seen 8 excellent productions on its stage, I’d say it was a great investment. If your back, legs and feet can handle it, standing in the yard with the groundlings is the best ‘seat’ in the house – you get a great view of the stage and can always move if someone tall stands in front of you. At just £5.00, it’s also the cheapest theatre ticket in London.
Prospero, the usurped Duke of Milan was banished by his brother Antonio and 12 years later, he still wants revenge. When Antonio’s ship sails near the island, Prospero uses his magic to conjure a tempestuous storm. The play opens with its iconic shipwreck scene, with all sound effects provided by the percussionists in the gallery – the matinee sunshine is a little at odds with the sounds of rolling thunder and howling wind, but the men onboard the ship become separated in the storm and each in turn wash up on the island. There we meet Prospero (Roger Allam), his daughter Miranda (Jessie Buckley), his spirit companion Ariel (Colin Morgan – Merlin in the BBC TV series of the same name) and his deformed feral servant Caliban (James Garnon).
Roger Allam gives a great performance as a man whose bitterness has been reignited by the reappearance of his brother and he proceeds to play tricks on the shipwrecked men, aided by Ariel. Colin Morgan imbues his character with an almost childlike mischievousness and proves himself more that worthy in a stage role. Jessie Buckley gives Miranda a glow of naivety, almost drunk with joy when she first encounters the strangers arriving on the island. But it is James Garnon whose wronged simian-like Caliban steals the show at times with his vocal gymnastics, swinging from deeply guttural to high pitched squeaking.
The highlight of the play is a typical Shakespeare slapstick scene; drunken jester Trinculo (Trevor Fox – last seen in The Pitmen Painters) stumbles ashore, wrings out his oversized codpiece and hides under a blanket waiting for the storm to pass, only to find Caliban underneath and the two proceed to get tangled up in the fabric. The writhing, shouting mass of limbs is found by Stephano (Sam Fox, a regular face in Shakespeare comedy roles) a drunken steward from the shipwreck who believes it to be creature that is either ill or possessed: “four legs and two voices: a most delicate monster!” Shakespearean comic acting at its best.
The Tempest runs on selected nights up until Sunday 18th August, however it forms part of the ‘Season of Plenty’ at the Globe which includes A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Macbeth which are running until Sunday 13th October.
Shakespeare’s Globe, 21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, LONDON, SE1 9DT
Shakespeare’s Globe is currently building a traditional indoor Jacobean theatre which will be open for its first performances in January 2014. To be named the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, after the Globe’s visionary founder, this will be an exquisite candlelit venue in which Shakespeare would have felt right at home. They have so far raised 94% of their £7.5million target. If you would like to contribute towards this exciting new venture, you can do so by clicking this link.