Photo credit: http://www.urban-vacation.com/167/ralph-fiennes-in-shakespeares-the-tempest-showing-at-the-haymarket-theatre-royal-london/
This is The Tempest by William Shakespeare, directed by Trevor Nunn, and starring Ralph Fiennes as Prospero and Nicholas Lyndhurst as Trinculo.
I saw it last Friday (23 September). It was a very very very traditional production and I LOVED IT!
They had chosen to set it in the Jacobean age. Given the amount of special effects you could deploy nowadays, I think they kept the effects at a relatively basic level, so that the focus was the characters, the relationships, the story and, above all else, the verse speaking and Shakespeare's language. Shakespeare as it should be. There is no need to glam it up as they are doing in the RSC's current Merchant of Venice, the text speaks for itself and you should let the text do the talking (just my opinion!). Ralph's verse speaking ... I have no words. Shakespeare's verse is just so beautiful and poetic when Ralph is speaking it, just as it should be. In fact, the verse speaking across the whole of the cast was outstanding. This is very important to me when you are putting Shakespeare on the modern stage - the audience should be able to make sense of what is being said and should be able to follow what is going on. Finally, I got a real sense that this was a magical place, a truly enchanted isle. I loved the set, which was simple yet effective.
Ralph Fiennes as Prospero and Elisabeth Hopper as Miranda, his daughter.
I will now say something I never ever thought that I would say. The standout performance for me was not Ralph Fiennes, although he was superb as he always is. It was Giles Terera playing Caliban - they opted for a Black Caliban and I had no issue with that. I felt that this Caliban had dignity, and you could feel the injustice that he thought he had suffered at the hands of Prospero, and I therefore had empathy for this Caliban. I think this is the right reading of the play - Caliban should not be a monster, we SHOULD feel empathy for him and his plight, just as you should for Shylock in the Merchant of Venice if, and only if, it is played the right way.
Giles Terera as Caliban, with Stephano and Trinculo.
I have seen many many many productions of The Tempest over the years (it is one of my three favourite Shakespeare plays, the other two being The Merchant of Venice and Othello), this was my second favourite version of all the ones that I have seen (I will talk about my favourite version tomorrow). The Tempest will always have a special place in my heart as we studied it for A Level. This production is highly highly highly recommended by me.
It runs until 29 October 2011.
I am linking to the key broadsheet reviews here:
Finally, I thought I would mention some random information about the Theatre Royal Haymarket.
When I returned to London in 1995 after 3 years away, the Theatre Royal Haymarket, and not the National Theatre, was the first theatre I went to to see a serious play (I saw Burning Blue).
The Theatre Royal Haymarket was also where I took my future husband to be (at that time) for our first theatre date. The production? An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde!