November 22, 2014

The Tempest

William, you've been 'punked.

A darkened stage; thunder, lightening and the spidery projection of a clockwork airship hurtles towards the audience. Monocles are dislodged, corsets frayed and bustles are skewed as the ship is wrecked upon the shore of a strange, steam powered island.

This is no Jules Verne novel, but the beginning of director Benjamin Haddock's steampunked version of William Shakespeare's The Tempest, currently showing at Gryphon theatre.

While it may seem to be a unusual intepretation of the great classic, the bare cogged and brass boned mechanics of this sub-genre of science fiction are a successful substitution for the magical manipulations in the original and visually emphasise the play's major theme of theatrical illusion. The neo-victorian/futurist props and costuming in particular are a highlight; the result of a collaboration between Haddock, Karl Arndt (Production Manager), and his local steampunk consultants who have based each character's outfit on a streampunk alter ego. Posters outlining this process are available for perusal in the theatre.

The play itself remains true to the original tale of ship wreck, betrayal, manipulation and redemption, though with some notable gender shifts; Alida Steemson gives a convincing performance as the magician /puppeteer Prospera (originally Prospero), the wronged Duchess of Milan, betrayed by her sister and banished to the island 12 years prior with her young daughter Miranda.

Prospera is a magician in the manipulative sense, not a witch, but a mechanically minded genius who manipulates her machinery to create a storm to bring her enemies together, engineering a series of often hilarious events with the ultimate aim of marrying her daughter to Prince Ferdinand and restoring her to her rightful highborn place. Prospera is aided by two servants, a gentle automaton named Ariel (in the original an airy spirit) and by Caliban, a snarling disfigured creature. Ariel's costuming is worth a mention, with interactive elements that include flashing lights and a removable key.

Miranda and Ferdinand (Amelia Noble and James Bayliss) are perfectly and humorously portrayed as the innocents of the plot, naive, posturing adolescents in love, and infinitely dorkable. Comic relief is provided by the drunken Stephano and Trinculo (Andrew Goddard and Allan Burne), who had the audience in stitches with their carry-on bafoonery.

The combination of confident performances and elaborate costuming have created a visually dynamic and entertaining work, though a dash more emphasis on the darkside of human nature would not have gone amiss. All in all a great show that will translate well to any audience.

The Tempest will be showing from Wednesday, 19 November - Saturday, 29 November at Gryphon Theatre , 22 Ghuznee St, Te Aro, Wellington
Get your tickets here

No comments:

Post a Comment