African Tempest takes UK by storm

17 March 2009

The Baxter Theatre Centre and Royal Shakespeare Company’s co-production of William Shakespeare’s magical last play, The Tempest, is taking the UK by storm, with five stars from several top critics and the entire season almost sold out already.

Following its run at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Courtyard Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon, the company is preparing for a five-city tour, starting off at London’s Richmond Theatre on 19 March, followed by Leeds, Bath, Nottingham and then Sheffield, where the tour ends on 25 April.

Shakespeare would have been proud. Michael Billington from The Guardian gave the production five stars, saying that South African director Janice Honeyman’s production “combines racial politics with visual playfulness in a way that liberates this all too-familiar play.”

Charles Spencer from the Daily Telegraph said it was “as moving and beautiful production of Shakespeare’s great play as you likely to encounter, continually inventive, bursting with spectacle and deep emotion, and proving, yet again, that Shakespeare is our contemporary.”

The Financial Times said that “perhaps only a South African company could temper [The Tempest] so powerfully with a recognition of the vital necessity of truth and reconciliation to enable all the land’s people to move on.”

And The Stage said Honeyman’s “electrifying vision of the play returns Shakespeare’s darkly lyrical text to the tropics” and “bursts with excitement and visual brilliance”.

The lead roles of Prospero and Caliban are performed by two greats of the theatre: Anthony Sher and John Kani.

Sher, himself born in Cape Town, and Honeyman first conceived the idea for the production eight years ago, drawing on the music, dance and ritual of Africa, set against a colourful landscape that is vast, beautiful and powerful.

“I’m extremely pleased to be working with Janice Honeyman again – she directed me in the RSC production of Fugard’s Hello and Goodbye,” Sher says on the RSC website. “It’s also been a lifelong ambition of mine to be onstage with the legendary South African actor John Kani. So this feels like all my dreams coming true.”

The Tempest transfers to the Richmond Theatre in London from 19 to 28 March, then to the Leeds Grand Theatre from 31 March to 4 April, followed by the Bath Theatre Royal from 7 to 11 April and Nottingham Royal Theatre from 14 to 18 April. The tour ends off at the Sheffield Lyceum Theatre from 21 to 25 April.

SAinfo reporter

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