The Tempest Reviews – Alex Kingston at the RSC ★★★

Reviews are coming in for Shakespeare’s The Tempest, in a new revival by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Playing at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford until 4 March 2023, the play stars Alex Kingston as Prospero.

Other cast include Jessica Rhodes as Miranda, Jamie Ballard (Harry Potter and the Cursed ChildHenry VIII) as Antonio; Ishia Bennison (Romeo & Juliet) as Gonzalo; Grace Cookey-Gam (Persuasion) as Sebastian; Peter De Jersey (The Threepenny Opera) as Alonso; Ian Charleson Award winner Heledd Gwynn (Hedda) as Ariel; Joseph Payne (Antigone); Tommy Sim’aan (As You Like It) as Caliban; Simon Startin as Stephano; and Cath Whitefield (Into the Woods) as Trinculo.

The production is directed by Elizabeth Freestone, and features Set Design by Tom Piper, Costume Design by Tom Piper and Natasha Ward, Lighting by Johanna Town, Music and Sound by Adrienne Quartly, Movement by Sarita Piotrowski, Fights by Kev McCurdy, Puppetry Direction and Design by Rachael Canning. Casting is by Helena Palmer CDG.

Read reviews from the Times, Telegraph, Guardian and more.

More reviews to follow.

The Telegraph

"Alex Kingston shines in one of the RSC’s most confident evenings in ages"

"The former Doctor Who star serves up a fascinatingly maternal and down-to-earth Prospero in an often spellbindingly beautiful production"

"Director Elizabeth Freestone’s conceit (abetted by a sumptuous yet eco-friendly, no-frills design by Tom Piper that utilises theatrical cast-offs and recycled junk) is that this far-off land has been engulfed by modern detritus. Shakespeare seemingly grasped, presciently, the blighted destination of mercantilism and colonialism. We’re given a timely vision, then, of utopia scarred and yet restorable by unearthing our better natures."

"If I have a reservation, it’s that Kingston could let greater storm-clouds gather and a louder emotional tempest of betrayal rage – she’s almost too serene, and sunny, at points, slotting into, rather than standing out from, the company. But what an ensemble. This feels like one of the most confident, complete evenings Stratford has offered in ages."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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The Times

"Prospero magic holds long show together"

"... Elizabeth Freestone’s production may veer between the inspired and the rather clunky, but her star, Alex Kingston, the English actress who made it big in American in ER and big in time and space in Doctor Who, knows how to own that stage. And that island."

"... while Kingston doesn’t do overtly domineering, and falters really only when force-feeding us anguish, this party can go flat when she’s not around."

"The point about colonialism is made, lightly but adroitly, just as the heavy use of plastic bottles and debris is underlined only in an amusing moment when Ferdinand goes litter-picking. The evening drags, a bit, at not far off three hours. Yet Kingston’s command helps make it memorable."

Dominic Maxwell, The Times
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The Guardian

"Alex Kingston is a magnificent Prospero"

"Climate catastrophe and power struggles dominate Elizabeth Freestone’s RSC interpretation of Shakespeare’s play"

"Gender-stubbornness about Shakespearean roles would have robbed us of great Lears from Glenda Jackson and Kathryn Hunter, and also of Kingston’s magnificent, revelatory Prospero."

"A very modern staging that is fundamentally true to the text and the RSC’s intellectual, rigorous, clear-speaking traditions."

Mark Lawson, The Guardian
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The Stage

"“Alex Kingston is fiercely luminous”"

"Impassioned Alex Kingston as a gender-swapped Prospero illuminates a muddled staging"

"... Alex Kingston brings a passionate, mercurial intensity, as well as a sprightly sense of fun, to her female Prospero. But too much here is resting on Kingston’s shoulders. She’s surrounded by a flotsam of concepts that have been neither fully thought through, nor properly lashed together. And for all her vibrancy and sincerity, the pace of life on this enchanted isle is often agonisingly slow."

"In the middle of it all, Kingston remains fiercely luminous, a woman refusing to buckle under an almost intolerable burden of responsibility. It is a shame that nothing and no one else here shines quite so bright."

Sam Marlowe, The Stage
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i News

"Alex Kingston is an uneven Prospero in a lethargic production"

"Elizabeth Freestone’s climate change spin on the play contains many potentially winning elements but doesn’t quite deliver"

"The casting of Alex Kingston is certainly a step in the right direction for the RSC, which has been sorely lacking in star wattage in its recent Shakespeare productions... Kingston, who started her career at this company before the siren call of television, plays Prospero, here conceived as a mother, rather than father, with magical powers; this story is thus one of a mother and daughter struggling to survive on a strange island. So far so enticing, but the theory is unfortunately stronger than the execution, with Kingston’s uneven performance a microcosm of Elizabeth Freestone’s underwhelming production."

Fiona Mountford, i News
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The Observer

"Alex Kingston’s fine Prospero weathers an RSC concept storm"

"The climate crisis is one in a blizzard of ideas that threaten to overwhelm Elizabeth Freestone’s production."

"The casting of Alex Kingston as Prospero more interestingly switches the emphasis of the plot, towards layers of affection and subjection. This is not a feminist first – Vanessa Redgrave took the role at the Globe more than 20 years ago – but it has a far-reaching effect. Kingston, who draws the audience to her with fervour, is a no-nonsense maternal figure, pulsing with warmth: it is the only time I have seen Prospero torn with sorrow when Ariel flies off."

"Yet this is a production that exposes The Tempest as, for all its haunting lines, one of the least compelling of Shakespeare’s plays; the opening few minutes of rapid plot summary are enough to make you wonder if he knew how to do drama."

Susannah Clapp, The Observer
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Daily Mail

"Alex casts her spell as the first female Prospero"

"... make no mistake, this is no politically correct stunt by the RSC, but an inspired piece of celebrity casting."

"Yet the most impressive thing about Freestone's production is that it digs deep into the treasure trove of Shakespeare's glittering poetry — nowhere more so than in the vast, flapping harpy summoned from hell to torment Prospero's enemies."

"The great thing about Kingston is that she humanises the often-distant figure of Prospero. She makes him — her! — thoroughly relatable as a gutsy middle-aged mum"

Patrick Marmion, Daily Mail
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📷 Main photo: Alex Kingston as Prospero in The Tempest. Photo by Ikin Yum

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