The idyllic isolation of a magical isle, with an enforced captivity enabling intellectual study and mystical creativity, is the setting for Ben Crystal and Paul Hart’s edited version of The Tempest. Their Prospero, played superbly by Michael Hadley, is an astute wizard who attracts the pawns in his game with a supernatural and irresistible magnetism.
The Tempest is renowned for its metaphors. Are we witnessing the materialisation of the Watermill Theatre’s intoxicating appeal to cast its creative tendrils out to its potential audience, entrance them and then feed their addiction with magical productions such as this?
Designer Jemima Robinson carries the metaphoric appeal of the play to even higher levels, setting it in a cell-like study surrounded by bookshelves. Crackling radios denote the inner workings of Prospero’s confined intellect, and Aoife McMahon excellently defines the ethereal presence of Ariel, allowing us to decide for ourselves whether she may, or may not, be a figment of Prospero’s powerful imagination.
The bestial Caliban is played with an endearing compassion by Tim Chipping, and Stephen Finegold is a mafia-like Antonio. Tarek Merchant plays the comedic Trinculo, Jonathan Christie is a handsome Ferdinand, and Jessica Dyas has the delightful cameo role of Iris.
The metaphors work on whichever level you choose, but one thing’s for sure - it’s a magical experience.