If you are dreading the thought of Love Island ending, the Globe has you covered with The Tempest. Director Sean Holmes’ vision of Prospero’s Island is more a tacky holiday resort adorned in plastic kitsch than a phantasmagorical dreamscape. It would be very much at home on ITV2. Think rubber palm trees and inflatable lilos rather than sorcery and spells.
His production is sadly not quite what dreams are made of. Its individual elements are intriguing but there is no theatrical glue to piece together an overarching vision. The end result is admittedly fun but too episodic to be memorable.
Holmes’ production is less focused on a critique of colonisation and empire, but neo-colonialism and the sprawl of globalisation. The foreign invaders are armed with plastic bottles rather than guns, leaving a trail of pollution in their wake. All the fantasy is muted and dialled down: Caliban is not a demonic savage but a scruffy staff member at the resort adorned in an ill-fitting Hawaiian shirt. Rachel Hannah Clark’s obsequious Ariel is not a fairy like being but a Las Vegas style rhinestone cowboy. Prospero himself wields an anaemic looking stick, more a tree branch than a magical staff.
It’s certainly a refreshingly contemporary take, but it fails to follow through with its concept. There is no overarching image to act as an aesthetic nexus; the conceptual dots are never connected. It is a shame because individual aspects are undeniably worth our attention.
Take the shipwrecked Alonso and co. who are cast as pinstripe clad yuppies fresh out of JP Morgan’s board room. Are they neo-liberal capitalists prioritising profit over the planet? Or are they simply strangers in a foreign land? The production gives us no concrete answers. And what do they have to do with Trincolo and Stefano dressing up as Harry Potter characters? The mismatching imagery saps the climax of its heartfelt poignancy; we have the puzzle pieces, it’s just that none of them fit together to give a satisfying conclusion.
Fortunately, there are enough buoyant performances to save The Tempest from drowning at sea. Ferdy Robert’s Prospero channels Ray Winstone in Sexy Beast down to the skimpy yellow swimming trunks. His geezer like mannerisms are manic and skittish, yet he draws the space together with enchanting electricity. Olivier Huband and Nadi Kemp-Safi as lovers Ferdinand and Miranda have fiery chemistry even if they are occasionally static.
George Fouracres’ Stefano and Ralph Davis’ Trincolo are lovably obnoxious lads on tour. Their sunglasses are on and their bellies are out. The more they booze the more they ooze boyish chutzpah with Davis even shouting up to a passing plane “Help I’m down here!” They are shipwrecked after all.
The Tempest certainly has the right ingredients for a frosty summer cocktail, it just seems to have lost the cookbook with the right recipe.