I'll be completely upfront and honest here. The main reason why I wanted to see this play wasn't for the play itself - which I wasn't familiar with - but because it featured two actors that I really like: Roger Allam and Colin Morgan. I've become a fan of Roger Allam thanks to my huge love of Cabin Pressure and Colin Morgan played the title role in Merlin which I'm a massive fan of. These two actors are probably the most famous actors in this production although some might recognise the actress who plays Miranda. Her character is played by Jessie Buckley who was a contestant on the Andrew Lloyd Webber show I'd Do Anything, which was that talent show where they were looking for a woman to play Nancy in Oliver!
After I booked a ticket to see this play I bought a copy of The Tempest so I could familiarise myself with the source material - but I have to say I wasn't overly impressed. I loved the language and I really liked the setting and some of the characters but I also found it boring in places and the Miranda-Ferdinand romance really got on my nerves. But now I've actually seen the play live I can say that it's so much more enjoyable than the written text! I still don't think I'd class The Tempest as one of my all-time favourite Shakespeare plays but when you see it live it's fun, enjoyable, funny and entertaining. The play got so many laughs from the audience and I had a great time. Even the weather was pretty good! This production also featured some excellent musicians and the staging was effective. It was pretty simplistic but there were some nice props and I liked that Elizabethan/Jacobean clothing was actually worn.
The whole cast was terrific in The Tempest and every single actor looked like they were enjoying themselves. The last time Allam performed at the Globe he won an Olivier for playing Falstaff in Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2. Allam was clearly very comfortable with the Shakespearean dialogue and he gave an excellent performance. I really liked the way he played Prospero. From what I've heard Propspero is often played as being quite a dark character but Allam's Prospero was actually very likeable and sympathetic. His scenes with Miranda were quite touching and affectionate. Allam had genuine chemistry with Jessie Buckey and Prospero's relationship with Miranda was very believable and well-done in this production. Colin Morgan was also excellent. Morgan apparently played Ferdinand when he was still at drama school but in this he played Ariel. Considering that Morgan is pretty tall and surprisingly muscular in real life he's very acrobatic! His acting was very physical in this and he moved around the stage a lot! He ran, leapt, climbed and swung around the stage. He even cartwheeled at one point! But his Ariel was also slightly camp, very ethereal and clearly not human. Morgan brought some real vulnerability and innocence to the character as well. The notable exception to this is the scene where Ariel dresses up as a harpy. Morgan is pretty menacing here. Interestingly Morgan also played Ariel as being quite forgetful. When Prospero reminds Ariel of when he freed him from the Sycorax's spell Ariel genuinely doesn't seem to remember what happened to him. Morgan also sings in this production. To be honest he hasn't got a great voice but he still sang in tune and I'm sure he'll get better as the run carries on. Shockingly enough though my favourite actor in this production wasn't actually Allam or Morgan...
As much as I love Allam and Morgan, and as great as they both were in this, it was actually Joshua James and Jessie Buckley who gave my favourite performances in the whole play. I loved them! I really didn't like the Ferdinand-Miranda romance at all when I read The Tempest but it was actually my favourite thing about this production! Their romance was actually really cute and adorable in this and that was entirely down to the acting. James and Buckley were both brilliant and they brought so much personality and likeability to their characters. They had great comic timing and they both made me laugh out loud. On the page Ferdinand is a pretty boring and insipid character but James played him as being a bumbling, hapless posh boy - to hilarious effect! Miranda isn't that interesting on the page either but Buckley's Miranda had really funny mannerisms and was really cute. James and Buckley had great chemistry too. According to the programme they've both recently graduated from RADA so maybe they already knew each other going into this play?
I guess the only other main actor to talk about it is James Garnon who played Caliban. He definitely freaked out some members of the audience! He spent a lot of time hissing and spitting and glaring at members of the standing audience - "the groundlings". If you choose to stand near the stage you have been warned! Garnon had a really odd accent as Caliban - I'm not sure what it was supposed to be - and an odd style of walking which helped to show that the character isn't human. I found Caliban's scenes with Stephano and Trinculo funnier live than when I read the play and the actors did bring humour of their lines. Some of the Trinculo-Stephano scenes were really bawdy - too bawdy for my liking at times to be honest - but the actors were really good and the audience were clearly enjoying it.
The Tempest is currently playing at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre until August and I'd definitely recommend going if you can. Tickets are only £5 if you're willing to stand for three hours. I wasn't willing so I paid £18 for a partly restricted seat on the lower ground. The view was great for the vast majority of the time. Failing that I know the Globe Theatre will occasionally release DVDs of their most well-received productions.