Home » Reviews » Off West End » The Tempest, Lion and Unicorn Theatre

The Tempest, Lion and Unicorn Theatre

William Shakespeare
Presented by the Grassroots Shakespeare Company London
★★★★

Pros: A wonderfully modern, high energy production filled with great jokes, lovely acting and lots of amusing pop culture references.

Cons: If you’re a serious Shakespearean scholar you might find this production a bit silly and it felt a teensy bit too long overall.

Our Verdict: A fun and unpretentious production from a great theatre company. This show is perfect for anyone seeking a fun night out and it is also suitable for young children who have little or no prior knowledge of Shakespeare.

Courtesy of the Grassroots Shakespeare Company London

The Tempest at the Lion and Unicorn opens with the cast singing a song about how they don’t have a director and how they barely know their lines – all of which sets the tone perfectly for this tongue-in-cheek production. The song is followed by a visually enticing storm scene displaying excellent lighting design by Ciarán Cunningham. We then meet our lead character Prospero, played by Matthew Walker who, despite his young age, remains credible as Miranda’s father. Although Prospero is a powerful sorcerer, Walker’s performance has a distinctly ‘dad’ vibe, which works a treat in adding to the rich humour of the show and to the credibility of the relationship with his daughter. His delivery is clear and compelling with good pacing. Although his character provides lots of laughs, there are many sad moments which Walker also portrays beautifully. Likewise Daisy Ward, who plays Miranda, has a solid grasp on her character, playing Miranda’s sweetness at just the right level with strong, clear delivery. Her chemistry with Ferdinand, played by Christian Kinde, feels completely real and their romantic moments together are gorgeously tender and realistic.

The character of Ariel (Alan Blampied) is full of energy and mischief and he provides a huge portion of the biggest laughs for the show. As much as this character enjoys stirring up trouble, Blampied’s portrayal is full of joy and likability. During our performance, there were two small children perched on the front row bench who seemed completely in awe of him for much of the evening. Another terrific actor is Max Wilson who plays Caliban. Like Alan Blampied, his characterisation goes down a treat with the kids and his choices are sufficiently multi-layered so that he feels like a real person rather than a character who is just playing for laughs.

It is interesting that this show had no director on board. I would have thought such a decision would be potentially fatal to the professionalism of any production but this play comes together so well that I found myself speculating over the need for a director at all. Many times I’ve seen shows directed by very talented professionals which had nowhere near the impact this show manages to achieve. Perhaps the lack of director gave the performers a sense of playful freedom which is not always available in more traditionally produced shows.

I have seen quite a bit of Shakespeare on the fringe lately and this show is by far my favourite. In fact, this is a production which succeeds where many others have failed in the sense that the complexity and sheer volume of Shakespearean text which a performer must learn during rehearsals can drain the scenes of natural delivery, particularly in the first week of a run. This production is packed full of realistic, three dimensional characters who have complex, fully-formed relationships with each other and the heavy dialogue never seems to get in the way of this. The high-energy and big laughs are resting upon a calm, quiet confidence which can only come from performers who know exactly what they are doing and are very happy with the ground-work they have done.

This show is an absolute joy and if you have children of panto-going age and up, bring them along too. They will love it. Bravo.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

The Tempest runs at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre in rep with A Midsummer Night’s dream until 5th January 2013.
Box Office: 08444 999 999 or book online at

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