Image Takaya Honda
Dates: 2012 Bella Vista and 2013 Leura
Company: Sport For Jove
About (extract from Director's Notes)
We may never know whether this was the last complete play written by Shakespeare. Oxford University Professor Emma Smith suggests that this persistent belief is rooted in our wish to make the play represent Shakespeare’s farewell to the stage. A romantic notion which comes with dangerous baggage: that of reading the character of Prospero as Shakespeare and the story we are watching as one he is writing. This is, I have come to believe, the quickest way to destroy the drama in The Tempest and to mute a play which ought to roar like a storm.
The play is called The Tempest not because of a noisy first scene but because peace and calm, inner and outer, only come at the very end when Prospero has managed to overcome his anger, his wish for revenge and his need for power.
- Peter Brook
As we dug into the play we found in Prospero a character full of oceanic passions. Why does someone shut themself off from the world and study magic? What gives someone a desire for that kind of godlike power? What kind of a man raises his daughter without telling her a single thing about her past? Who would adopt a child only to then make them his slave? As Damien Ryan and I explored the text, we travelled further and further away from a vision of Prospero as a wise old wizard. We found Shakespeare’s Prospero had more in common with Allie Fox, the obsessive visionary in Paul Theroux’s The Mosquito Coast, who drags his family into the jungle and to the point of death with his burning desire to reshape society. We found in Prospero a character unable to forgive, slowly killing himself with his own bitterness. This man must learn to let go of his power and position and this journey is the fundamental dramatic movement in the play.
Miranda: O brave new world that hath such people in’t
Prospero: ‘Tis new to thee
The Tempest is not, however, a play just about one man. Rather it is a dazzling example of competing perspectives. Aside from Prospero the lines are distributed very evenly across the rest of the cast – it is genuinely a play with a dozen main characters. Soliloquies and asides are Shakespeare’s way of allowing the audience to identify with a character through giving us a window into their inner life. As I started to hear this play in the mouths of the cast, what struck me was the number of main characters that speak to the audience: virtually all of them. Each has a distinct voice and remarkably different perspective on every aspect of life, from morality and spirituality to civilisation, family and government. If Shakespeare has a voice in The Tempest it is not Prospero’s – is heard in the spaces between what each character says: in the contradictions and ambiguities thrown up about freedom and slavery, civilisation and barbarism, legacy and letting go, lust and chastity, youth and age, revenge and forgiveness.