Tempest 2007



I had three main ambitions when I began work on Shakespeare's final solo play. The first was very simple: I wanted to tell the story clearly. When I initially saw it, I had no bloody idea what was going on despite being a quite capable audience member. Who are all these strange grey men and why on earth are they shouting in the first scene? What are the family relationships between them? Who is grieving who, and who has what to gain?  The Tempest, to be sure, is as oddly akimbo as Caliban, but it's hardly lacking in story as is often claimed by people who've failed the work. Indeed the first half, in a curious mirror of its end, is taken up entirely with beginnings, as we meet more and more people on this supposedly deserted isle.

Another ambition was to restore the masque's dramatic centrality. It's often cut completely from productions or reduced to less than twelve lines. This is, I reckon, a mistake, and not just because a modern audience doesn't relish the Roman religious system. I suspect that just as the banquet scene represents all the action of the play's final denouement in ironic miniature, the masque is where the thematic content of the play is given its purest and most dreamlike outing. Also, Prospero must learn from the masque that, like insubstantial players, 'we are such stuff as dreams are made on', and the exit we take from this life is one of sublime finality. This has a massive impact on what he decides to do: to the visitors, to his daughter, to himself, to Ariel who is asked to initiate it. And none of this means the masque can't be fun.

My last ambition was to renege on the operatic tradition and restore a male Ariel to the Aussie stage. It's simply been too long. Some of it, no doubt, has to do with Ariel asking Prospero if he loves him. Some of it also has to do with modern concerns about casting, but there were other, I thought, no less transformative and pronoun twisting ways of getting a second woman in the cast. Hence, goodbye in this production to one of those grey men and hello Antonia.

There were, of course, other things. I thought a lot about the Blackfriar's tradition of singing contemporary songs between acts while the stage candles were re-lit. I thought about David Bowie, the Nine Inch Nails and our modern pastoral and romantic traditions. I thought about dreams and their centrality in all of Shakespeare's works and how Enya, that dark mistress of Celtic twee, is the world's most powerful aural sedative. I thought about how to realise differently that initial shouting scene, particularly since we find out later it was an illusion, a kind of collective dream. I thought about dream machines from Shakespeare's time to our own: books, hooker pipes, game consoles, the theatre itself. And I wondered why Aussie directors, despite some recent and quite cynical public conversation, don't cast more imaginatively: with an eye to doublings that enlargen the thematic grammar of the play rather than reduce it; with casting choices that maximise a play's heart rather than wither it through a very nineties sense of race and gender. I wondered and tried to do my bit, again.

Mostly, however, I thought about how I might tell the story of Shakespeare's final, most rich and strange dream as clearly as I could. I hope you enjoy what we've all come up with.

Damien Millar

design Light SET
Tony Youlden

Kim Scott

DJ Soup & Phil Scott

John Calvi

Vincent Hooper
Gertraud Ingeborg
Lee Jones
Peter Kowitz
Tom O’Sullivan
David Ritchie
Phil Scott
Sara Zwangobanihttp://www.google.com/advanced_search?hl=enshapeimage_2_link_0