The Tempest

Written by William Shakespeare, Directed by Philip Franks
Liverpool Playhouse, 30th September – 22nd October 2005

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

This is a highly imaginative interpretation of Shakespeare's last complete play. Instead of being set on a Mediterranean island, as in the original version, this is staged on an abandoned seaside pier, with the characters attired in contemporary dress.

A quote from the play's programme perhaps accurately sums up the magnificence of the play. "As we grow ever more glued to our armchairs and televisions, a play such as The Tempest is a salutary reminder of an imagination beyond the boundaries of technology and of how the live experience can dumbfound our jaded palates" stated Everyman and Playhouse Artistic Directors Gemma Bodinetz and Deborah Aydon.

The two hours of the production flies by, due mainly to the arresting staging - the set design by Gideon Davey is outstanding - and magical qualities inherent in the play.

Director Phillip Franks deserves praise for the way he has brought a fresh appeal and nuance to a play which was written nearly four hundred years ago. Dear departed Derek Jarman, who directed the film Sebastaine - which was his interpretation of The Tempest - would surely have admired Franks' audacity in dealing with one of Shakespeare's greatest works.

Prospero (Christopher Ravenscroft), who rules with magical powers, is highly impressive, together with the mad and monstrous Caliban (Ben Porter), who seemed to relish his part, delivering a constant stream of demented sayings.

Ariel (Richard Glaves) brings a special presence to the production with his ghost-like appearance, especially so when he turns into a laughing clown, the type I used to see when I visited seaside funfairs.

It was a compelling evening.

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