REVIEW ROUNDUP: Ralph Fiennes Opens in The Tempest in London
The play centers on an exiled monarch -- Prospero (Fiennes) -- who has gained fantastic powers on a semi-deserted island.
The company also features Nicholas Lyndhurst as Trinculo, Chris Andrew Mellon (Sebastian), Michael Benz (Ferdinand), Tom Byam Shaw (Ariel), Jim Creighton (Adrian), Ian Drysdale (Francisco), Elisabeth Hopper (Miranda), Andrew Jarvis (Gonzalo), James Simmons (Alonso), Giles Terera (Caliban), Julian Wadham (Antonio) and Clive Wood (Stephano) as well as Steven Butler, Eke Chukwu, Meline Danielewicz, Gisele Edwards, Hayley Ellenbrook , Grahame Fox, Charlie Hamblett, Jami Reid-Quarrell and Itxaso Moreno.
The creative team includes scenic and costume designer Stephen Brimson Lewis, lighting designer Paul Pyant, and sound designer Paul Groothuis, and composer Shaun Davey.
Most of London's daily papers and several U.K. websites have posted reviews, and while Fiennes' work is being generally well-received, there have been mixed reactions to Nunn's production.
Among the reviews are:
The Tempest, Theatre Royal, Haymarket, review
"Ralph Fiennes's Prospero patrols the stage like an old-time actor manager, luxuriantly savouring every slowly delivered syllable as if relishing a particularly fine wine."
"But the worst fault of all in this tedious and misguided production is that Nunn sentimentalises the play. In Shakespeare's text Prospero's forgiveness is hard won, the sinners' repentance highly qualified. Here, Nunn tries to close the play in a golden glow, with Prospero actually kissing Caliban on the forehead and shaking his evil brother's hand. The ending ought to be much tougher."
The Tempest, Theatre Royal Haymarket - review
"[Fiennes'] performance, marked by a lucid way with Shakespeare's verse, has a dignity and humanity that make the character more sympathetic than is usually the case."
"Trevor Nunn's account of the play is coherent but tepid. It's confidently orchestrated and there are deft touches that indicate a careful re-examining of the text, as well as a stylish design by Stephen Brimson Lewis, expertly lit by Paul Pyant."
The Tempest - review
"It's a deeply traditional production, with none of the startling innovations of a Rupert Goold, but one that coherently and satisfyingly treats the play as a parable about the triumph of virtue over vengeance."
"But, although Nunn's production softens some of the play's harsher edges, it boasts in Ralph Fiennes a Prospero full of the right tortured nobility. Fiennes is particularly good in the opening passages. He quietly mutters spells as he assumes his magic mantle. He looks totally exhausted by the effort of summoning up the sea storm. And he illumines every stage of his long recital of his past history, showing especial tenderness to Miranda as he reassures her 'a cherubin thou wast that didst preserve me'."
First Night: The Tempest, Theatre Royal, London
"Shakespeare's last play is one of his shortest and can sometimes zoom by in 90 minutes. But with Ralph Fiennes at the commanding centre of Trevor Nunn's meditative and melancholic production, you don't really mind the clock ticking past the three-hour mark."
"There is a touch of the magus and the prophet about Fiennes, but he's also an unusually virile and determined Prospero: and he speaks the verse so naturally and beautifully."
The Tempest, Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London
"Transformed from the evil wizard Voldemort in the Harry Potter movies into an exiled duke on an isle that's full of noises, sounds and sweet airs, Ralph Fiennes still manages to cast a spell and pull all the strings."
"Fiennes certainly takes his time. But nobody takes their time more movingly than he does. And reeling off the great speeches would be too obvious - he hammers them out, with odd caesuras, holding them up to the light and avoiding at all costs that silken Gielgud rubato."
"More than any other Shakespeare play, The Tempest is about political and personal change, forgiveness, revelation and reconciliation - it never fails to be astonishing, even in harsh or bleached productions. Nunn's version is not soft focus, exactly, but it is deliberately melancholic and romantic."
Review: The Tempest (Haymarket)
"Compared to more recent incarnations, Fiennes presents Propero as neither a domineering tyrant nor as a manipulator, but as a world-weary middle-aged man. Even when he's subjecting Ferdinand to his tasks, there's little sense of any dominance."
"This is traditional Tempest with little exploration of the undertones of colonialism or psychological insights of some more recent productions. But it's worth seeing for Fiennes' very human Prospero and some rather fine verse speaking underneath the overblown musical trappings."