Drawing: Michael Pennington as Prospero

Tom Littler’s production of THE TEMPEST at the Jermyn Street Theatre in London, featuring Michael Pennington as Prospero, opened in March 2020 for a five week season. After only six performances it was forced to close due to the Covid lockdown. Eighteen months later it set sail again, and even though the Omnicron variant, currently rampaging through the West End, is causing show disruptions, the production looks likely to complete its rescheduled run this week.

One of the foremost Shakespearean actors of his generation, Michael’s distinguished career is dominated by a variety of leading stage roles for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre and the English Shakespeare Company, which he co-founded and was its Artistic Director from 1986-1992. The four-time Olivier Award nominee has also toured two solo shows; SWEET WILLIAM and ANTON CHEKHOV worldwide. Earlier this year he released a memoir, entitled ‘In My Own Footsteps’.

“Being taken to the theatre when I was 11 years old lit a light in me, and that light has never gone out.”Michael’s latest stage performmance drew universal acclaim.¬† In the West End’s smallest producing theatre, he is “a colossal Prospero”, wrote Broadway World. The Guardian’s Arifa Akbar said, “The magic spark in this production lies largely in Pennington’s Prospero… a physically wizened but still mighty magician and displaced Duke.

“Michael also has a number of screen appearances to his impressive credit list, including CALLAN, THE BILL, THE TUDORS and FATHER BROWN on television and as Moff Jerjerrod in STAR WARS: RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983) and Michael Foot in THE IRON LADY (2011) on the big screen.

I met Michael a couple of weekends ago as he arrived at the Jermyn Street Theatre for a Saturday matinee, where he kindly signed my Prospero portrait for me.

Drawing: Ron Cephas Jones and Stephen Dillane in The Tempest

Stephan Dillane Prospero001

2010 was the second year of Sam Mendes’ transatlantic Bridge Project featuring globally touring hybrid Anglo-American cast at the Old Vic Theatre. The Shakespearean comedy As You Like It ran in repertory with The Tempest. At first sight they may not appear obvious bedfellows, but both deal with exile, sibling hostility and a touching father-daughter relationship.

BAFTA and Tony winner Stephen Dillane, currently seen in the British hit TV series Game of Thrones portrayed Prospero, The Tempest’s main character and overthrown Duke of Milan ¬†turned sourcerer. American actor Ron Cephas Jones played the enigmatic half-human, half-beast Caliban – Prospero’s slave.

Time Out described his performance, “with his vulpine aspect, ascetic frame and rich, musical baritone, earns that hackneyed critical plaudit, “riveting.”

Both Stephen and Ron signed my drawings in August 2010 at the stage door.