Almeida Theatre, London N1
Opened 14 December, 2000

As the saying goes, "book now to avoid disappointment"; the Almeida's final home production before it is rebuilt is quite phenomenal.

I could take up this entire page reviewing Paul Brown's incredible set: he creates a ruined Almeida interior of fallen timbers and brickwork, with a huge pool taking up most of the stage, into which Aidan Gillen's blond Ariel repeatedly vanishes only miracle! to reappear on ropes from the flies. When Prospero drowns his magic book and staff, he does so literally. Jonathan Dove's music, of looped choral fragments, is beautiful, although pitched a little too high for Gillen to be comfortable with when singing the only faint blot on his performance. Ian McDiarmid's Prospero uses his "Emperor" voice from the Star Wars films to altogether more glorious effect: loving yet raggedly severe, introspective and slightly cracked by his years of exile, yet always a figure at once of grandeur and poignancy. Malcolm Storry's Caliban is older than usual, but no less vigorous or squalid. The party of shipwrecked Italian nobles do nothing wrong, but seem on the anodyne side amid the otherwise universal riches of Jonathan Kent's production. This kind of Shakespeare comes along only a couple of times in a generation. Don't miss it.

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Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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