The Tempest at Barbican Theatre

The Royal Shakespeare Company (in collaboration with Intel and The Imaginarium studios) present William Shakespeare's 'The Tempest'

The Tempest at Barbican Theatre

"An illusionistic stage"

William Shakespeare's The Tempest at Barbican Theatre (Royal Shakespeare Company) was a striking visionary performance complete with live interactive effects powered by Intel and stunning set design and production (credit to the production designer, Stephen Brimson Lewis and artistic director, Aileen Gonsalves). Theatre is naturally a collaborative art, dependent on plastic theatre, performance capture, and stunning visuals. Likewise, Barbican's interpretation of the enigmatic island was beautifully done with unimaginable scenic effects, dance and music. The Tempest's masque scene was transformed into something powerfully intriguing and unsettling. Brought alive with striking moving lights (guided by Simon Spencer), the audience were alarmed by the malevolent Duke of Milan/Prospero (usurped by his brother Antonio and the support of the King of Naples/Alonso and Sebastian) and the illusion of justice. The enigmatic protagonist's pursuit of power and vengeance (brilliantly performed by Simon Russell Beale) was conveyed by an atmosphere of tempestuous weather and spiritual light imagery.

Lost on a fantastical island

A duke once heartlessly robbed of his influence and position becomes overwhelmed with the desire to take vengeance on those who have wronged him. Expressed by Shakespeare's 'tempest' motif, Beale's convincingly unhinged and incensed performance heightens the tense uneasy setting of magic and isolation. Cultivating inhuman powers, he is vindictive over his subordinate, Caliban (an enslaved unearthly creature performed by Joe Dixon), strangely possessive over his daughter, Miranda (a simple and inoffensive interpretation by Jenny Rainsford), and defensively autocratic with Ariel (a loyal spirit being and confidante acted by Mark Quartley).

Above all, Quartley and Dixon's passionate performances as the airy spirit, Ariel, and grotesque Caliban were the most impressive. Dixon's interpretation of Caliban was especially great. It was a live celebration of creativity, morality, and passion. A character originally acknowledged for his resentment and savage demeanour unexpectedly becomes a parody of himself. Dixon's performance is completely comedic and desperate. He effectively captures the character's nobler more sensitive side that is often mistaken for idiocy and senselessness in other interpretations.


Photo credit: Topher McGrillis


Joanna Bailey

Joanna Bailey Local Reporter

I'm a young freelance magazine journalist, artist and student based in Dartford. When time allows, you'll catch me taking an obsessive number of photos, sketching an abstract digital art portrait or watching an old bucket-listed film. When I'm not blogging, I'm admiring an underrated art piece somewhere or immersed in a classic play or novel.

Check out my Gold Arts Award portfolio here:

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  • Luke Taylor

    On 26 July 2017, 09:52 Luke Taylor Contributor commented:

    Brilliant review! I love a Shakespeare play :D

  • Sam Nead

    On 30 July 2017, 18:00 Sam Nead Contributor commented:

    I have to say I really wasn't impressed by it at all! My whole family were completely underwhelmed and felt like the focus on the elaborate technology had let the acting slip, which is rare for an RSC production as usually the standard of acting is much, much higher. I did like Ariel but wasn't a fan of Caliban or Miranda, and unfortunately got quite bored. I know a lot of people have loved it though so it's interesting reading someone else's take on it!

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