National Theatre Live: “The Tempest” starring Roger Allam (Game of Thrones)

Viserys (Harry Lloyd) laughs w/ Illyrio (Roger Allam) on HBO’s “Game of Thrones”

Recently, my mom (a fellow fan of Shakespeare) and I saw a filmed version of The Tempest (from the remade Globe Theatre) at Landmark Bethesda Row.  The role of Prospero was played by Roger Allam, who some of you know as Illyrio Mopatis from HBO’s Game of Thrones.  Illyrio is a wealthy and powerful Magister in Pentos; he is a dealer in spices, gemstones, dragonbone, etc.  For a time, he served as custodian of the exiled Targaryen children and seeks to return them to the Iron Throne.  Illyrio also arranged the marriage between the Dothraki leader, Khal Drogo, and the teenaged Danerys Targaryen.


I’ve seen Prospero played as a benign schoolmaster, colonial overlord and Faustian necromancer.  But Roger Allam brings something new to the party by suggesting that Prospero is first and foremost a father: what we see, in this riveting performance of Shakespeare’s usurped protagonist, is a man torn between possessive concern for his adored Miranda and recognition that she is an agent of reconciliation with his enemies.  -Michael Billington (The Guardian)

The Tempest, in essence, is a small story-  the exiled Duke of Milan, Prospero, and his teen daughter, Miranda, are living on a secluded island peopled by magical spirits (including Ariel) and the son of a “witch” (Caliban).  Propero carries a wand and wears a cloak when he’s performing magic in this version of the play.    

 Magic is created through simple means, such as a shower of petals descending from the sky or Stephen Warbeck’s music emanating from every corner of the building. Herrin sometimes slows the pace to maximise the laughs, but he gets good performances from Jessie Buckley and Joshua James as the enraptured lovers, Colin Morgan as a nimble Ariel and James Garnon as a Caliban who burps and spits in the groundlings’ faces.  -Michael Billington (The Guardian)

This play contains some of The Bard’s most-quoted lines, including “Oh, what brave new world with such people in it!”  Miranda exclaims this when she first sees the men from Milan up close.  Until then, she’d only seen her betrothed- Ferdinand, who’s used for comedy in this production (youthful earnestness with wide eyes).  Ariel is not feminized, as is often done- he’s handsome, limber (does some acrobatics), and slyly funny.    

2 thoughts on “National Theatre Live: “The Tempest” starring Roger Allam (Game of Thrones)

  1. My fave prof ever said this was also his fave play! Mine is “Much Ado About Nothing” b/c of the wit of Beatrice & Benedick; second would be “Othello.”


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