The Tempest @ Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Glasgow's Tron Theatre stages a timely version of Shakespeare's classic as stormy nights rage outside and climate crisis becomes the focus for the city
A remote island, inhabited by magical figures perceived as otherworldly by the Europeans who end up shipwrecked on its shores. An exiled duke, who takes it upon himself to make the land his kingdom, drain it of its powers and force its subjects into his service. A group of freshly-arrived Westerners who – after various in-fights, thwarted plots and power grabs – abandon the island, leaving the chaos of their presence behind.
This is the story of The Tempest, Shakespeare's strange and surreal play, and purportedly among the last he wrote. There are extensive parallels to be drawn (and have been, plenty of times) with colonialism, something this production aims to explore, though director Andy Arnold doesn't overstate the message. Instead he lets Shakespeare's story more or less speak for itself, rarely stepping in with directorial input to overtly highlight those connections. On the whole, this is to Arnold's credit – interpretations of Shakespeare that overlabour their point are tiresome – but the production could still do with just a few more directorial touches, similar to those in the poignant final moments, to really draw out the themes of exploitation, power and greed.
There's a beautifully fantastical side to this version though, in large part due to Jenny Booth's stage design. It feels entirely fitting both to the world of the play and to Glasgow right now, as dark stormy nights rage outside and world leaders gather in the city to discuss impending climate doom. Moody greys and earthy browns dominate Booth's set and Victoria Brown's costume design (made from recycled stock and materials). Niroshini Thambar's sound crackles with thunder and fizzes with uneasy dissonance. The set is full of imaginative, gothic magic: ladders swing from mezzanine heights, books are stuffed into every spare space and overlord Prospero towers over it all by perching on a windowsill by the theatre's stained-glass window.
Liz Kettle and Itxaso Moreno, as proud half-human half-monster Caliban and tricksy spirit Ariel respectively, do a great job at sinking into and crawling out of the corners of Booth's set, as if emerging from the earth itself. The physicality of their performances is also impressive, particularly Moreno's. Her Ariel twists, spins and spiralls through the show with a tireless sprite-like lightness (credit here should also go to movement director Kerieva McCormick).
Ariana Ferris McLean and Taylor Goodwin are a fabulous comic duo as the hapless butler and jester conspiring with Caliban to seize power, while Nicole Cooper plays Prospero with an edge of disdain and a compelling authoritative presence. Overall this is a strong production, with a good deal of atmosphere, lovely imaginative details peppered throughout and a fresh, energetic cast.
The Tempest, Tron Theatre, Glasgow, until 13 Nov