Becalmed spirits

7th July 1995 at 01:00
The Tempest. RSC at the Young Vic.

David Thacker's production of The Tempest has all the ingredients for success: a talented cast, an experienced production team and a circular space in which to concentrate the action. Yet the intensity of emotion usual in Thacker's Shakespeare is, disappointingly, absent.

The story is told deftly enough except that the pairing in rep with Bingo, Edward Bond's play about Shakespeare's last days, spent in moral doubt and at odds with his family, informs the action more than is good for it. Prospero (Paul Jesson) wearing Shakespeare's fustian suit, is an unhappy, revenge-minded man first and a god-like magician a long way second. Nothing wrong with that, perhaps, but it seems perverse for him to don what appears to be a magic robe (here ducal regalia) at the moment when he abjures his powers.

His supernatural acts are carried out, even more than usual, by Ariel, who is assisted throughout by three spirits. This should work beautifully: Bonnie Engstrom as Ariel is lithe and quick-footed and there is plenty of opportunity for mime and dance. But the spirits are dressed like the Weird Sisters in Macbeth in mud-coloured swathes which inhibit movement.

Sarah-Jane Holm and David Fahm make sincere lovers and Dominic Letts an other-worldly Caliban, with Jeremy Brook (Trinculo) and Ian Driver (Stephano) providing lively drunken comedy. Altogether, this version will hold teenagers' attention and stimulate discussion; it is a shame it does not do more to raise one's spirits.

Running time 2 hours 20 minutes. Young Vic until July 20 (0171 928 6363) then Stratford and touring (0171 382 7127).

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