Exiled Prospero lives on a desolate island with his daughter, Miranda. When Prospero's usurping brother sails by the island, Prospero conjures a storm that wrecks the ship and changes all of their lives.

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David Waller ...
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Alan Rowe ...
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Kenneth Gilbert ...
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Exiled Prospero lives on a desolate island with his daughter, Miranda. When Prospero's usurping brother sails by the island, Prospero conjures a storm that wrecks the ship and changes all of their lives.

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27 February 1980 (UK)  »

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The Complete Dramatic Works of William Shakespeare: The Tempest  »

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The episode used a 360-degree set which allowed actors to move from the beach to the cliff to the orchard without cutting. See more »

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Version of The Tempest (1983) See more »

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An Insufficiency
17 March 2007 | by See all my reviews

Any theatrical repertory company that attempted a full Shakespeare cycle would have some winners and losers. The same is true of the BBC's attempt to commit the Bard to video. This is one of those occasions where nothing much goes right, and the results are a good deal short of satisfying.

Michael Hordern is a choleric Prospero, emphatic in his anger, but he is cold and unpoetic in reconciliation. Perhaps because he was substituting for an unavailable Sir John Gielgud, Hordern goes too far in the opposite direction. This series gave him King Lear, in which he gave the performance of his life, but this Prospero can't be regarded as a success.

The rest of the cast ranges from decent to annoying, but no one emerges covered with glory. Christopher Guard as Ferdinand is well enough, but his cousin Pippa Guard as Miranda winds up with all her stage tricks mercilessly exposed by the camera, without an honest moment ever. The Ariel and Caliban are absolutely predictable, no surprises here.

A word about the physical production: these days we no longer see much in the way of TV studio design, but this series has moments of serious visual beauty. Even at it's most workaday, the BBC designers generally support the play.

Here, unfortunately, the island is ugly. It is not Bermuda, as in the shipwreck that inspired Shakespeare, nor is it some Mediterranean isle between Naples and Tunis, as the text suggests. It is a Northern island, with basalt cliffs and weak winter sun. As a viewer, you wonder why anyone would stay there, and how come they're not working harder to get off of this repellent and most un-magical bit of frigid rock.

The production design does not support the play, it sinks it further. All in all, a tedious misfire.

Teachers should note that Ariel's Catering Service is seriously underdressed. If your class will find a clutch of nearly nude male dancers distracting, at least you'll know they're awake.


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