Photograph of Rudolph Walker as Caliban in Jonathan Miller's 1988 production of The Tempest


Jonathan Miller’s ground-breaking production of The Tempest was one of the first to highlight the political and colonial implications of the play. It was initially shown at London’s Mermaid Theatre in 1970 and then re-worked and re-designed for The Old Vic in 1988.

In this 1988 photograph, Max von Sydow plays Prospero as a white colonist, while Rudolph Walker plays Caliban as a black slave reluctantly obeying Prospero’s commands. Ariel, also played by a black actor, was portrayed as a servant of the empire, impatiently awaiting political independence.

In her review of the 1970 production, Hilary Spurling said ‘[i]t will be hard … ever again to see The Tempest as a fairytale’.[1]

[1] See Gordon McMullan’s chapter, ‘“Into something rich and strange”: The Tempest at the Blackfriars Playhouse, c. 1610–11’ in Shakespeare in Ten Acts (London: The British Library, 2016), pp. 57–58.

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Photograph of Rudolph Walker as Caliban in Jonathan Miller's 1988 production of The Tempest
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Zuleika Henry
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© Photo by Zuleika Henry

15._Zuleika Henry_The Tempest, The Old Vic dir. Jonathan Miller 1988 Rudolph Walker as Caliban and Max von Sydow as Prospero

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