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The Tempest - Opening play set to do strong business for The Globe



Review by Oli Burley

IT SOUNDS like the type of dramatic streamlining usually dreamt up by a struggling company: get three guys to carry out the work out of 11.

Only The Tempest, the opening offering of The Season of the World and the Underworld, is in no danger of doing poor business at Shakespeare’s Globe this summer.

It is a sleek, alluring spectacle in which Mark Rylance, Alex Hassell and Edward Hogg boldly carry the entire narrative, accompanied by a trio of modern dancers and six Elizabethan singers.

This dreamlike concoction is one that Rylance revels in as he takes on the role of usurped duke Prospero, wrecked with his modest daughter, Miranda (Hogg), on an island inhabited by spirits.

From the outset Rylance’s influence, still potent in his 10th and final year as artistic director at The Globe, is clear as in a solo turn he plays out the storm and the fates of his foes on a chessboard.

It is also a clear indication that Master of Play, Tim Carroll, intends to explore Prospero’s island as an extension of the character’s mind.

The success of the ploy, however, hangs on the clarity of Prospero’s relationship with the other figures on stage – something anyone unfamiliar with the text may struggle with.

Given that each actor plays several parts, at times in the same scene, even the keenest of ears need to be alert to pick up the narrative nuances – difficult enough in the oft distracting environs of The Globe.

As expert as the players are at role-shifting, it is somewhat off-putting to have Rylance play Alonso and Prospero in the same conversation, or Hogg morph between the trashed Trinculo and clinical Ariel.

Likewise, the dancers – reminiscent of Bros fans in jeans and leather jackets - jar the senses as they initially demonstrate the influence of the spirits by dragging Prospero onto stage with a rope that hangs from the stage ceiling.

With time, these dexterous performers ease on the eye and, invisible to the characters, they manipulate fate – most memorably in the drunken staggering of Stephano (Rylance) and Trinculo.

Likewise, the looped rope gradually pulls everything together, even allowing Rylance at times to switch characters simply by putting his head through it.

Elsewhere, Hassell, at times most affectionate as the monster Caliban, uses the prop to swing wildly across stage while the rope becomes the discarded staff when Prospero casts aside his magic powers.

It is this final act of liberation that resonates throughout The Globe, as Prospero’s release from the island becomes in the same moment Rylance’s farewell to the wooden ‘O’.

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