Two of the most familiar themes for those studying The Tempest - the opposition of nature and nurture and colonialism - are given full rein in Michael Boyd's production.
Prospero has been on the island with his daughter Miranda for 12 years when his usurping brother falls into his hands with Alonso, king of Naples, the king's son Ferdinand, and a party of courtiers. They are returning from the wedding of Alonso's daughter in Tunis when Prospero uses his magic powers to cause a storm and maroon his enemies on his island of exile.
Prospero is played by Malcolm Storry as an organising, even bullying, ruler, without much hint of the intellectual who lost the dukedom of Milan to his more Machiavellian enemies while he buried his head in books. Storry stalks the wide, multi-level, circular space at the Roundhouse certain of his superiority over a black Caliban and Ariel.
Geoff Francis's Caliban is angry and rebellious, not because he is a monster, but because he has been deprived of his birthright. He is not malformed and, in the final moments, as he confronts a Prospero who is no longer his master, he appears to be a credible potential ruler himself. His willingness to show the drunken Trinculo and Stephano, jester and butler respectively, the delights of the island, recalls tales of the welcome given to European settlers by native Americans. Stephano (Roger Frost) and Trinculo (Simon Gregor) echo the order of home, where they are servants, and behave as Caliban's masters, burlesquing Prospero's imperiousness.
All the characters wear a version of Elizabethan dress; Caliban and Ariel (beautifully played by Kananu Kirimi as an unwilling slave rather than a spirit) have been made to conform. The masque is staged as a circus-like spectacular which would have pleased an early 17th century audience. The programme has helpful essays, including one by Jonathan Bate.
The Tempest runs in London until June 22.Tickets tel: 0870 6091110
Debate: Race, nations, relations and the psyche - The Tempest today, June 22
Details, RSC Education, tel: 01789 403462