The Tempest, Richmond Theatre The Baxter Theatre’s new production of The Tempest provided the audience with a hugely entertaining, but flawed interpretation of Shakespeare’s final Romance play.

The plot involving Prospero (played by Antony Sher), the usurped Duke of Milan, ruling over the inhabitants of an island, has for obvious reasons led many critics to point out the play’s colonialist themes and the Baxter Theatre, based in South Africa, has used this as the driving force for their production.

This meant Prospero's relationship with the island's other main inhabitants, Ariel and Caliban - who he occasionally dominated with the brute force of an African landowner – took centre stage, relegating his revenge on and eventual forgiveness of the perpetrators of his downfall to a mere afterthought.

While this reading of the play worked within the context of Prospero's (slightly homoerotic) relationship with Ariel, it also created the production's biggest problem - the portrayal of Caliban.

There was nothing wrong with John Kani's performance as the monster – in fact he was excellent. However, the production's attempt to capture Caliban's dignity meant issues such as his attempted rape of Prospero's daughter Miranda and his plan to have Prospero murdered were not sufficiently explored. Ultimately, there seemed to be no relation between the deformed monster described in Shakespeare’s text and the downtrodden, but heroic, man on stage.

There was much enjoyment to be had from this production though, and even its flaws were redeemed by the interesting debating points they created.

There was also some fantastic performances. As well as the already mentioned Kani Sr, his son Atandwa Kani, who played Ariel, looked unsurprisingly exhausted during the final curtain. His athletic portrayal of the “airy spirit” filled every inch of the stage, as one would probably expect from a supernatural being.

Mention must also go to Nicholas Pauling, whose brilliantly cynical and sniping Sebastian seemed wasted on such a small part.

Jonathan Portlock