Whether or not this is the Bard's farewell to the stage, it makes an ideal envoi to mark the end of Dominic Dromgoole's ten years at the helm of Shakespeare's Globe.
In the candlelit intimacy of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, there's room for the story to unfold on many levels. The opening storm itself gives a triple whammy. A model vessel against a hand-held wooden ocean, then a riotous pitching deck, the mariners and their passengers threatening to spill over into the audience. And finally the echoes of the voices of the drowning calling down from the galleries, for all the world like Captain Cat's shipmates in Llareggub.
There's plenty of knockabout fun from the clowns Dominic Rowan and Trevor Fox, supplementing Shakespeare's text with quick-fire adlibs. Some of the Globe's best comic actors bring wry humour to lesser roles too, notably Christopher Logan as Sebastian. Fisayo Akinade is a fine, proud Caliban.
Tim McMullan's Prospero is grave, with a rich voice matched in gravitas by Joseph Marcel's Gonzago. Not heard the poetry delivered so beautifully since Gielgud. He bids farewell to Caliban and to Ariel, the earthly and the ethereal aspects of his art, as he prepares to break his staff and drown his book.
Pippa Nixon is his Ariel [like the mariners, everywhere and nowhere in the magical candlelight] moving curiously through the mortals and along the parapet separating pit from gallery. And his Miranda, Pheobe Price, is a credible teenager, marvelling at the brave new world of men, including Dharmesh Patel's excellent Ferdinand.
A very enjoyable chamber Tempest, fun and fantastical by turns, with all the hallmarks of Dromgoole's robust approach to his hero Shakespeare, honouring the text while entertaining the playgoers.
Photograph: Marc Brenner