Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Tempest by William Shakespeare

The Tempest by William Shakespeare.  Daramalan College, Director Joe Woodward.  October 24-27, 2012-10-24

Reviewed by Frank McKone
October 24

The purpose of this production is essentially for the education of the student participants, on stage, backstage, front of house and in the audience, working in a theatre production company format titled Daramalan Theatre Company.

Head teacher Joe Woodward (who also directs the independent theatre company, Shadow House Pits) operates as overall artistic director, with a range of others – among students and staff – taking on tasks such as Co-Director (for this production, Desiree Bandle), Dramaturg / Pronunciation Coach (Tony Allan), as well as all the necessary technical designers and operators.  I noticed two jobs I regard as essential for students to learn were missing from the program: publicity and accountant.

The theatre program “varies from group devised productions [to] classic and contemporary scripts, in-house scripted works and musicals”, providing students with a wide range of opportunities to gain experience and understanding of theatre, whether or not they go on stage in later life.

This production of The Tempest ticks all the educational boxes.  Characterisation is strong; speaking Shakesperian text varies in quality as I would expect, but is well backed-up by movement work and choral sections; and there is effective experimentation in reversing gender roles, where Prospero and Gonzalo become Prospera and Gonzala, Ariel is male rather than the more usual female (at least in post-17th Century productions), and Trinculo is female, making the Stephano, Trinculo, Caliban relationship rather different from the ordinary clown format.

Visually the costumes, set and lighting, like the sound effects and music, are a mixed conglomeration of some odd but many interesting ideas.  Yet this works well for the island full of weird spirits: The Tempest is a great vehicle for experimentation, for playing with possibilities.

The atmosphere in the final scenes, where Prospera leaves her magical powers to Caliban now that she has regained her rightful position as Duchess, and Caliban regains his position of power passed down from his mother, Sycorax, was well put together.  At this point the whole cast clearly felt at one with their audience – achieving this must be the key to a good educational experience, and it was achieved on opening night.  Well done.

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