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Review: Techno wizardry fails to whip up storm in The Tempest

Magical performance: Simon Russell Beale excels as Prospero PICTURES : TOPHER MCGRILLIS


The Tempest

Barbican ★★☆☆☆

THERE are two stars in this Royal Shakespeare Company production.

One is Simon Russell Beale, known to some as the coiffured Egyptologist in Sky show Penny Dreadful and to others as the finest Shakespearean actor of his generation.

The other is Intel — the American tech giant better known for its Pentium processors than for iambic pentameter.

Gregory Doran’s hugely ambitious production uses cutting-edge technology to bring about some of the most fantastical visions in the Bard’s canon.

The plot is all about a reckoning wrought by Beale’s vengeful wizard Prospero, who conjures a storm that brings to his desert island those who once betrayed him.

Young love: Jenny Rainsford and Daniel Easton as Miranda and Ferdinand

His right-hand man is the flying spirit Ariel, played by Mark Quartley, whose expressions and movements are mirrored by projections that appear suspended in mid-air, though without ever evoking the sense of flight.

And in the marriage scene between Prospero’s daughter Miranda and the kindly prince Ferdinand, every inch of the vast stage is bathed in a projected, multicoloured landscape.

But unlike, say, Harry Potter And The Cursed Child, which made masterly use of techniques such as projection mapping, here the computer innovation has not been incorporated organically.

Instead, it appears more as a series of set pieces that reveal the RSC to be behind the curve in stage technology rather than at its leading edge.

Everything that is good about Doran’s show is the result of the more old-fashioned skills of acting and design.

Beale’s silvery Prospero is a study of a good nature embittered by betrayal, and Simon Trinder’s Trinculo is pure music hall clownery.