THE TECHNICAL magic on display at the RST could have come straight from the pages of Prospero’s books themselves.
This extraordinary and much-anticipated production has been two years in the creating, and all came about after RSC artistic director Gregory Doran was entranced watching a flying whale in a three minute corporate video created by Intel. Excited by the theatrical possibilities of such technology he was straight on the phone to Intel, and found them equally excited at the prospect of a collaboration, in association with Andy Serkis’ Imaginarium Studios.
The result is like nothing previously seen in a live Shakespeare staging. There are sure to be purists who find the adaption of big screen film technology to the theatrical stage a step too far. There are, it has to be said, times when the visual spectacular is such that you do momentarily lose track of actually what is being spoken.
But for all the technological wizardry on show, at the centre of this arresting production is a beating human heart.
Mark Quartley is the motion capture suited Ariel. The technology allows the CGI spirit to fly and morph around the stage to quite stunning effect, but his feline-like Ariel is no less impressive tech-free.
At other times drowning sailors plunge the depths from above, while the entire set – encased within the ribs of a shipwreck akin to the remains of the Mary Rose – is at various times carpeted in golden yellow, silver blue, fire red, spring green, and even peacock feathers.
Mr Doran was never going to let the technology take centre stage from Shakespeare, and his production is beautifully nuanced and the verse beautifully spoken.
It is imaginative, incorporating ballet and opera, funny, from the man-starved Miranda (Jenny Rainford) to the shennagins of Caliban (Joe Dixon) Stephano (Tony Jayawardena) and Trinculo (Simon Trinder), and heartfelt as the audience is left to ponder the future for Ariel and Caliban.
And then there is Simon Russell Beale, one of the world’s truly great Shakespearian actors, whose Prospero is a reminder that he has been away from the RSC stage for far too long.
The Tempest runs until January 21. Visit www.rsc.org.uk for tickets and further details.