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William Shakespeare’s The Tempest is playing at the Barbican until mid August, and it’s the thing of legends. Hours later, I still haven’t fully recovered from the perfection of this stage adaptation.
The Tempest is one of Shakespeare’s most ambitious plays when it comes to stage directions. We’re talking flying spirits, ship wrecks and, as the title will lead you to believe, full-on thunderstorms. Not to mention a couple of non-human characters, because I’m William Shakespeare and why the hell not at this point. Which might be amazing on paper, but also tricky to adapt on stage. Worry not, for Gregory Doran has it all covered.
The stage at the Barbican Centre is, for lack of a better word, freaking huge. Which can be a bit much for any play, but is just enough to recreate the hull of a wrecked ship. This is how you are welcomed when you enter the theatre: wind blowing and wood cracking as the ship pitches slowly before the eponymous tempest kickstarts the story. It’s massive, it’s breathtaking, and it puts you in the universe before the show even starts. Sheer brilliance, basically.
The Tempest is almost three hours of brilliance, to be honest. In true Shakespeare fashion, it features dick jokes, the breaking of the fourth wall, opera-singing forest spirits, impromptu dances and more emotions than you know what to do with. And it does a wonderful job of mixing all of this with modern technology to depict the spirits of the play and the magic used by Prospero through the play. Videos projected on the stage act as spirits and monsters, forests, sea storms. The music is an integrant part of the story, pushing the narrative forward and playing tricks on characters’ minds.
But more than anything, it’s Ariel who stood out to me, played by the wonder Mark Quartley. Ariel is (almost) always on stage, creeping on other characters and moving the plot forward, and Quartley does a perfect job at playing the spirit, climbing on the hull of the ship with a grace you can only envy, dancing his way around other actors, walking like he doesn’t weight a thing. The way he moved on stage, as if part of the set itself, is fascinating and I could barely take my eyes off him during his performance, even when the focus was on other characters.
I am not even embellishing the truth when I say it may be the most breathtaking and visionary Shakespeare adaptation I have ever seen in my life… And that says a lot, coming from me! This play was just perfection from start to finish, and I left the theatre a different person, because everything resonated in me with such a passion. A must-see!
Want to see it for yourself?
The Tempest is playing at the Barbican until August 18th. You can get a chance at grabbing £10 Rush tickets on the mobile application TodayTix, and you get £10 off your order by using the referral code SQOIJ on your first order, which basically mean you can go to the theatre for free!