The Roundhouse, London NW1
Opened 5 July, 2002

*** Ravishes the eye but only occasionally engages the emotions

Rather than tackle the problems of this late Shakespeare play, director Adrian Noble tries to distract our attention from them.

One of my colleagues theorised that Adrian Noble carried his experience on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang over to this production: it goes for beautiful visuals and a chain of set-piece sequences from music to fight sequences (once actually combining the two) at every opportunity. This is one way of filling a big space like the Roundhouse, or of reaching all the way to the back of the main Stratford house (where it transfers in August), but it's a bit of a cop-out as far as the play is concerned.

Even such opulence cannot mask the almighty clunk at the beginning of Act Three when Shakespeare takes over from an uncertain other writer; you don't have to have a trained ear to spot that suddenly it's a real poet writing, not a hack who's just trying to keep the story going. And what a story: sprawling across most of the Mediterranean, and including incest, shipwreck, prostitution, and of course noble courtship and miraculous reunions.

Ray Fearon is impressive in the title role, and Kananu Kirimi has the requisite sweetness as his daughter Marina. Shaun Davey's score is nicely exotic, but there really is far, far too much of it both in extent and volume.

Written for

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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