Stratford’s new production of The Tempest, a co-operative venture between the RSC and South Africa’s Baxter Theatre Centre, is a not-to-be-missed theatrical experience. A blend of stunning visuals, evocative African music and acting of the highest calibre – especially that of its two stars Antony Sher and John Kani – this is a presentation of Shakespeare’s great late play as fine as any I have seen.

Adding to an already impressive catalogue of Shakespearian roles, which includes defining performances as Richard III, Macbeth, Leontes and Shylock, Sher now triumphs as Prospero, deposed duke, powerful magician and proud father to a lovely daughter. Terrifying in his anger, this wild-haired ruler over an enchanted island is capable, too, of moments of great tenderness, especially where the lovely Miranda (Tinarie Van Wyk Loots) is concerned.

I do not expect to hear a more perfect delivery, in the deep bass voice Sher adopts for the role, of the speech in which Prospero renounces his magic, which many have taken to be Shakespeare’s own farewell to his art. It is delivered from within a cone of white light, in startling contrast to the kaleidoscope of colour that designer Illka Louw has been lavishing on us up until then. When Sher reached the mighty line “to the dread rattling thunder/Have I given fire”, tears sprang involuntarily to my eyes at the aural majesty he achieved.

Kani, as the enslaved Caliban, suffers miseries at the hands of Prospero that cannot do other than remind all members of the audience of the plight, so recently ended, of black South Africans of his generation. Nor can we forget that Caliban, too, was the rightful heir to the land, deprived of it by interlopers The apartheid theme fits well with the play, except perhaps in Caliban’s unlikely pair of co- conspirators in rebellion, the drunken butler Stephano (Elton Landrew) and the irritating jester Trinculo (Wayne Van Rooyen).

Prospero’s other reluctant captive, Ariel, is surely the most substantial “airy spirit” ever recruited for this play, in the well-muscled form of Atandwa Kani. His Men’s Fitness calibre pectorals are rivalled only by those of Charlie Keegan as Ferdinand, son of the King of Naples (Jeremy Crutchley). Stripped to the waist to perform Prospero’s testing tasks, he becomes alluring eye-candy for Miranda, who comically finds she cannot resist fingering the goods.

The Tempest, directed by Janice Honeyman, is at the Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, until March 14. Box office tel 0844 800 1110 (