In such troubling times it’s reassuring that London theatre continues as usual. Ahead of the performance Artistic Director Tom Littler delivered a clarion call for patrons’ support; however there are noticeable gaps at the Jermyn Street Theatre, a venue usually packed to the rafters. The stark reality prods us wherever we look but this excellent production of The Tempest provides a warm tonic. A visually attractive set is adorned with reminders of nautical adventures; a simple sheet stretched across the left side of the stage projects scenes from the past; subtle lighting is utilised as shapes are thrown across the compact performance area.
One of Shakespeare’s shortest plays is also one of the most frequently performed. It tells the story of Prospero (Michael Pennington) who lives on a remote island with daughter Miranda (Kirsty Bushell) and mischievous spirit Ariel (Whitney Kehinde). Prospero was Duke of Milan before his brother Antonio (Richard Derrington) usurped him with the assistance of Alonso, the King of Naples (Jim Findley). After 12 years on the island Prospero plots to regain his dukedom using sorcerer’s magic.
A wonderfully inventive production complements the story of magical spells that tread the line between reality and illusion. A lively plot moves along at a brisk pace, effectively using an hour either side of a twenty minute interval. The dialogue crackles with understated humour and benefits from well-rehearsed character interplay. The eight strong cast are in sparkling form; particularly Michael Pennington who delivers a masterful performance as Prospero; and Whitney Kehinde as occasionally whacky spirit Ariel. It’s a wonderfully clean production that never feels slow or ponderous. The characters are well portrayed and easy to distinguish; no mean feat where three members of the cast have to double up in their respective roles. To play Shakespeare with this degree of panache requires a deep understanding of plot construction and rhythm of dialogue. It was a pleasure and privilege to watch masters at work.
Written by: William Shakespeare
Directed by: Tom Littler
Produced by: Jermyn Street Theatre
Booking Link: https://www.jermynstreettheatre.co.uk/show/the-tempest/
Booking Until: 4 April 2020