This RSC production of The Tempest garnered a lot of press attention due to not only the fact that Simon Russell Beale was returning to the company after twenty years, but also its innovative use of technology.
An article in the programme explained that one of the reasons for choosing to use technology in such a way was to reflect the fact that Shakespeare experimented with the latest stagecraft and technologies in his day. Ariel (Mark Quartley) wore a body suit with sensors that used motion capture to project his image and movements across the stage, emphasising Ariel’s otherworldliness. Not only was he seen throughout the stage, but also in multiple and different forms, such as fanged dogs. It was incredibly effective.
It must have been a slight concern that the technology could overshadow the actors, but I would argue that maybe that’s impossible in a production starring Simon Russell Beale. It was the first time that I’d seen him on stage and I was not at all disappointed. He is such a natural Shakespearean actor, and he made a vulnerable and lonely Prospero. The audience could sense his internal struggle, and his private guilt which he was hiding from Miranda (Jenny Rainsford). It was very moving.
Other honourable mentions must go to Joe Dixon as Caliban who I thought was fantastic, and made the character far more sensitive than in other productions I’d seen. There was also plenty of comedy too from Simon Trinder as Trinculo and Tony Jayawardena as Stephano.
Despite the effective use of technology, it is Russell Beale’s performance that will stay with me from this production.