"An exhilarating production…I’m talking about the giddy liberation that comes from being caught up in a collective fantasy that makes you forget how small your existence can feel…It is the most purely pleasurable of the trilogy and the most entertaining ‘Tempest’ I’ve ever seen…I rarely stopped to consider that I was watching women playing men. I was too much under the spell of make-believe that is theater, in which a talented person can will herself into any form." Full Review
"The divine Harriet Walter plays Shakespeare's most godlike creation, Prospero, with uncommon depth of feeling…The prison motif works better here than in any of Lloyd's previous efforts, leading to the kind of seamless storytelling that one hopes for (but rarely gets) when Shakespeare is adapted to an unlikely time or place…In this week of presidential pardons, 'The Tempest' and its themes of clemency resonate, particularly in this astute adaptation." Full Review
"Lloyd’s staging of 'The Tempest' imagines that the play is being performed by an all-female cast of inmates. And as with the previous productions...the approach has its pluses and minuses...The ensemble is headed by the formidable Harriet Walter, giving a superb performance as the magician Prospero...Despite the actors’ fine efforts, the meta-theatricality of it all—winked at when one of the characters complains about 'postmodern shit'— proves more gimmicky than enlightening." Full Review
"It’s not much of a criticism to say that the rest of the cast is not at Walter’s level; who is? But every concept exacts a price, and if your concept is that a bunch of prisoners, with all their diverse accents and perspectives and abilities, is putting on a play, inevitably some of the sophisticated, single-point-of-view beauty of the text is going to be lost…Most of the time, Lloyd’s production seems to be making an excuse for nontraditional casting instead of merely exulting in it." Full Review
"An effective, well-edited Tempest (105 minutes without intermission), and Walter’s emotionally translucent Prospero—bluff pride exquisitely mingled with shame and penitence—is reason enough to attend. The rest of the youthful, multiracial cast does energetic, appealing work." Full Review
"Harriet Walter's Prospero is such a thrilling and original characterization that it very nearly justifies Phyllida Lloyd's over-interpreted staging…We are seeing ‘The Tempest’ as produced by specific prisoners...This is an interesting idea as far as it goes, but the constant intrusion of episodes of the inmates' daily life proves to be irritatingly intrusive…Certain ideas already seem past their sell-by date...The casting is extremely variable…The comedy subplot is especially lumbering here." Full Review
"A thoroughly satisfying 'Tempest.' Take your pick on what to admire the most: the joy of seeing a repertory company tackle multiple plays, the insight offered by an all-female cast and what that says about the play at hand, the ever-rich multiplicity of Shakespeare or simply great actors doing great work with a singular focus. It’s all there...This layering of performance and character upon character unlocks new meaning...It’s all delivered by an exceptional cast." Full Review
"The prison concept does not always serve the play well, but it reflects its themes of physical dislocation and overcoming destructive anger...This production makes a great case for the ongoing practice of performing Shakespeare for and with prisoners. Now that Lloyd’s trilogy is ending, it would be nice to see more all-female or gender-blind productions of Shakespeare, but they do not necessarily need to be tied down to an experimental concept." Full Review
"The formidable Harriet Walter, as directed by the equally formidable Phyllida Lloyd, is delivering the most astonishing reinterpretation of a famous William Shakespeare speech you might ever hope to witness…Walter is giving her devastating performance in the third of the all-women Bard trilogy…There is so much clever in the Lloyd approach that it’s hard to know where to start…Lloyd is full of additional surprises, too...Foremost are the delightful performances she plucks from the cast." Full Review
"Intense, original, and layered...All the inmates as performed by this stellar ensemble, find themselves confined in an environment that strips them of all the stereotypical feminine shackles...The parallels to Shakespeare are profound, and setting this play within those walls only shines more light on the roles we all play in order to survive...Some of the thrill was dampened due to the sameness of the exercise...I got the sense we were saying goodbye to Walker and the trilogy with love." Full Review
"It has some terrific coup de theatres that are bound to tickle your fancy...Walter, doubling as Prospero and the inmate Hanna, is superb...One of the marks of a great production is that it makes you see a familiar text in a fresh light. Lloyd's gender-blind 'Tempest' set in a prison does that and more. It invites you to watch women step into traditionally male roles with no apologies. What's more, it forces you to witness up-close how our justice system works—and how harsh it can be." Full Review
“This extraordinary production is the third in Phyllida Lloyd’s fearlessly original Shakespeare series. One can only pray there will be more…The concept unequivocally works…Not for a moment does one lose the pathos, comedy, complicated relationships, or magic embedded in ‘The Tempest.’ These are consummate actresses–intelligible, defined, impassioned, and decidedly un-highbrow…Walter is riveting…A visual treat, emotionally captivating and intellectually fascinating." Full Review
"Remarkable…A brisk two hours that fly by…The entire cast is almost too good to be true. So good in fact, that they make you forget how superb the remarkable Harriet Walter is as Prospero…The production is proof that it doesn’t take a massive bankbook to create great art…It’s not dazzling, until it is—when the lights go out and we all bring forth the starlight with our tiny lights in the darkness. It is magic right there, it is community, it is joy, it is beauty—it is what theater is all about." Full Review
"The multi-racial all-female cast is wonderful. Walters is a formidable Prospero, delivering Shakespeare’s words with command...The prison metaphor serves 'The Tempest’s' themes of freedom well. It also reflects the freeing of actresses from conventional casting constraints. Occasionally, I felt that the production’s high concept got in the way of the play itself. But in the end, Lloyd, Walter, and the ensemble deserve our praise and admiration for their theatrical vision and fortitude." Full Review
“'The Tempest' is about a private individual, but perhaps even more absolute power–the power of the ruler of a tiny island, Prospero (Walter)...This production, set like the rest of the trilogy in a women’s prison, highlights how limited, how constrained, and how ephemeral that power is…The prison conceit doesn’t always prove effective, but it really hits home in 'The Tempest’s closing moments, which prove resonant and unexpectedly touching." Full Review
“This is great theater. It has everything–terrific performances, surprise, spectacle, insight. If you can nab a ticket, even if you’ve seen 'The Tempest' before, you need to go. You’ve never seen it done like this…The cuts and some rearranging are judicious and it’s worth it for the surprising tableaux...Walter’s Prospero commands with dignity...It’s brilliant conception and direction by Lloyd, and unforgettable theater." Full Review
for a previous production "Lloyd’s production is a glorious reminder that genuine diversity on stage offers astonishing creative benefits. Everyone on stage looks different, sounds different and uses their body differently. Yes, it’s a hotchpotch, but a thrilling one. There’s not a character here who isn’t sharply defined…The all-female casts and prison setting make you see the play afresh…This is genuinely art to enchant." Full Review
for a previous production "The fusion of theme and setting becomes profound and moving…Walter becomes superb as Prospero. Here, her prison character, Hannah, fuses with Shakespeare’s magician. A lifer, she cannot ultimately leave her 'island', but must free herself through reconciliation with the past. She uses the play to do so...It becomes an immensely moving, communal piece about the transformative nature of art, the difficult necessity of forgiveness and the human cost of incarceration." Full Review
for a previous production "Lloyd's version arrestingly incorporates some of the supposed prisoners' own back stories into the fabric of the piece...But if there's a meta-theatrical element to it, the performances are robust and revealing on their own terms, without this editorializing. Walter is a revelation as Prospero; she has a quiet but devastating authority. And she's surrounded by a really superb ensemble…This production is both unique and faithful to the spirit of a play about letting go of the past." Full Review
for a previous production "An insightful triumph of pared-down theatre…Becoming more familiar not only with particular actresses but also the prisoners they loosely characterize, is a feature of the cycle’s particular accumulative power. There’s a lot of fantastic work in the ensemble. But it’s not enough to note how terrific – agile, alert, heartfelt – Jade Anouka is…You picture the untapped talent, too, in the fictional prisoner she embodies…Lloyd gives us rich food for thought by 'poor-theatre' means." Full Review
for a previous production "A brilliantly bracing new version of ‘The Tempest’…There’s a quirky earthiness, comic grit, and fiercely choreographed punch in this splendid diverse cast which has no weak link…The production is full of delights – especially Jade Anouka’s streetwise, red-wedged Ariel…Walters’ delivers a wonderfully intelligent performance…There have been many high-profile Shakespeare productions to mark 400 years since his death. Lloyd’s 'Tempest' is my personal favourite." Full Review
for a previous production "Walter's dignified performance keeps it all fairly grounded…In a slightly convoluted meta-theatrical device, we learn at the start that Walter is technically playing a prisoner who is playing Prospero…So when Prospero asks that we set him free, we know that on one level that’s impossible. But as Walter-as-prisoner bids goodbye to the rest of the cast, she seems like a wise and decent person, a dignified testament to the possibility of redemption and forgiveness." Full Review
for a previous production "Walter aside, the standout in a strong cast is Jade Anouka...But for all Ariel's dazzle, this isn’t a production that shimmers with exotic images…Yet there are some moments of beauty…Intimate, exciting, often abrasive and sometimes startlingly funny, it’s a celebration of ensemble acting and of the fertile possibilities of breaking free from conventional ideas about casting." Full Review
for a previous production "Of all the three it’s the least theatrically satisfying, a little bitty and fitful in comparison. But while it lacks of the propulsion of ‘Julius Caesar’ and ‘Henry IV,’ it features a commanding central performance from Harriet Walter…While it might be the least cohesive of the three, as the culmination of a project that explores how Shakespeare is played and by whom, that populates the stage with fascinating, complex women, it is still a production of power and a source of joy." Full Review
for a previous production "Lloyd’s production pushes in various directions and finds less added resonance from a show that deals less in factions and politicking and more in magic and control…While the relationship between prison setting and island setting is clearly marked, the show doesn’t sell us on the link emotionally. Walter is restless as Prospero...She’s a great actor but I’m not convinced she’s found her character this time…There is magic here, but there is also clatter." Full Review
See it if you love Shakespeare, great acting, the women of Donmar Warehouse, the beautiful St. Ann's Warehouse space, you're alive and it's still on..
Don't see it if you don't like non-traditional interpretations of Shakespeare (takes place in a women's prison)
See it if you think that Shakespeare can still speak to us today intelligently and if you want to see truly amazing acting and inspired directing
Don't see it if you are already familiar with Donmar Warehouse's productions. It's the same gimmick of Henry IV and Julius Ceasar
See it if You want to see a Shakespeare play that challenges traditional gender roles. You enjoy non-traditional staging. You want great acting.
Don't see it if You prefer more traditional interpretations of Shakespeare & staging. You want clear speech-some accents made it hard to understand.
See it if you love Shakespeare or the Tempest, want to see a fresh & often revelatory take on the text, love seeing strong brilliant women onstage.
Don't see it if you aren't interested in an all-female cast, only like traditional takes on Shakespeare, or have no familiarity with the material.
See it if you want to see a creative production of Shakespeare's classic, featuring a revelatory performance by Dame Harriet Walker.
Don't see it if you don't like Shakespeare. If so, it's your loss.
See it if If you like Shakespeare performed with muscular energy and by dynamic performers like Harriet Walters done in a non-traditional way, perfect
Don't see it if You are bothered by non-traditional casting or prefer museum quality Shakespeare or hate modern dress staging, this is not for you
See it if you are interested in alternative approaches to great theater. Harriet Walker is magnificent as she is in everything. No one else memorable
Don't see it if you are looking for entertainment in the usual sense of the word. Not much happens here. it is more about his/her experience of isolation
See it if You appreciate fresh takes on Shakespeare. The gender bending and having it set in a women's prison add so much to this classic.
Don't see it if if you hate all things Shakespeare no matter how brilliant
See it if you like Shakespeare or are attracted by Phyllida Lloyd's promising vision. You enjoy the exploration of theatre as artifice.
Don't see it if you have sky-high expectations. Despite Brantley's claim, this is not the best version The Tempest you will ever see. (Ariel is excellent!)
See it if you've liked the other all-female Shakespeare productions directed by Phyllida Lloyd.
Don't see it if you are primarily interested in a fresh, insightful presentation of The Tempest.
See it if You have liked all of the other Donmar productions at St.Anne's..this one is the best. If you love seeing powerful performances.
Don't see it if You can't stand anyone doing different takes on a Shakespeare production or don't like the idea of an all female cast.
See it if You like Shakespeare.ingenious staging, innovative approaches to classics, a wonderful evening of theater.
Don't see it if Theater in the round,travelling to Brooklyn,women actors playing traditional men's roles.
See it if See an exceptionally talented actress in Harriet Walter and a great ensemble cast; experience Shakespeare in a non traditional presentation.
Don't see it if you are a Shakespeare purist; you prefer extravagant sets; the prison setting sometimes intrudes on the story yet also defines it .
See it if You want to see a brilliant take on Shakespeare's final play with an amazing all female cast. Don't be skeptical of the prison aspect.
Don't see it if You can't stand anything other than a classical adaptation of Shakespeare and have a really closed mind about what theater is
See it if The payoff of Lloyd's Shakespeare Trilogy/prisoner motif. Woof. Absolutely brilliant casting. To see yourself in classic, off-limits roles.
Don't see it if Looking for straight presentation of text, rather than eminently enjoyable take. Object to women finally getting a look-in and owning it.
See it if Donmar's take on Shakespeare is always worth seeing. The female cast works; im not sure the prison setting does. Walter is magnificent.
Don't see it if you don't want to contemplate the nature of captivity, or feel it cant have any connection to Shakespeare. The text is heavily edited.
Get alerts about your favorite artists and theater companies