The Tempest

Te Marae O Hine, The Square, Palmerston North

01/03/2013 - 09/03/2013

Production Details

A hard rain’s gonna fall this summer in Palmerston North (metaphorically speaking!) as Manawatu Summer Shakespeare shakes things up for 2013.  

After 10 years at Victoria Esplanade, we are setting up in The Square for this year’s production of The Tempest.

Directed by Vanessa Stacey, this production will use our island in the centre of the city to represent Prospero’s enchanted island, and you can expect magic to happen there. This will be a high-octane steampunk take on the play that promises to marry Shakespeare’s timeless text with some stunning music, lush costuming and our most ambitious set yet.

Whether you are discovering Shakespeare or a veteran, this production will offer you something exciting and surprising.

As always, entry is by koha (gold coin donation), so one thing that isn’t different this year is that this is still the best value in dramatic experience!

Te Marae O Hine, The Square, Palmerston North
01 March 2103, 8pm
02 March 2013, 9pm
03 March 2013, 4pm
08 March 2013, 8pm
09 March 2013, 4pm & 9pm
Entry By Koha (Gold coin donation)
Wet Weather Venue Te Manawa Art Gallery
VIP Preview Night: 28 February 2013, 8pm

Creative Team  
Director:  Vanessa Stacey
Musical Director:  Kane Parsons, with additional music by Rob Thorne and Vanessa Stacey
Costume Design:  Charmagne Anthony & Suzanne Tamaki
Set Design:  Leda Farrow

Prospera:  Hannah Pratt
Caliban:  Czahn Armstrong
Ariel:  Becky Dack
Miranda:  Rosie Anderson
Ferdinand:  Conil Tod
Antonio:  Div Collins
Alonso:  Bruce Sinclair
Sebastian:  Michael Horne
Gonzalo:  Mark Kilsby
Adrian:  Adam Dodd
Stephano:  Jackie McKenzie
Trinculo:  Jak Edens
Sirens:  Lise Bakker, Jess Hong Natalie Peart , Shivarn Stewart, Lisa Swinbanks
Nymphs:  Haleigh Hook Maddie Sefton, Sophie Thornley
Mariners:  Pierce Barber, Ethan Burmeister, Sasha Lipinsky, Eden Mills, Trent Pedley, Matt Waldin 

Production Team
Producer:  Joy Green
Executive Producer:  Angie Farrow
Stage Manager:  Megan Green
Sound and Lighting:  Image Group Ltd.
Production Assistant:  Karen Newton
Photography:  Anu Sefton & Penny Aspin
Publicity Design:  Adam Dodd
Lighting Assistant:  Matt Poucher
Assistant Stage Managers:  Pierce Barber & Sasha Lipinsky
Set Builders:  Dave Anderson,  Nic Green, Paul Thompson
Paper Mache Technicians:  Victoria Forbes-Wood, Jackie McKenzie, Anu Sefton
Front of House:  Rebecca Freeman, Dylan Gray,  Astarte Itsastarte, Therese McCrae, Calliope Tullet

Attractive and captivating

Review by Richard Mays 05th Mar 2013

A night out on the town? The annual alfresco Summer Shakespeare production adds a whole new take on the concept.

From the decision to move Summer Shakespeare from its traditional venue in Palmerston North’s Victoria Esplanade and place it right in the city centre, to the lighting, original soundscape, steam-punk set and costumes, The Tempest is ripe to attract a whole new audience.

Director, Vanessa Stacey treats the central city square as an island. Her production begins with the frightened voice-overs of storm-wracked passengers and crew aboard an impressive 14-metre sail-rigged paddle-boat, and ends on a Captain Nemo-esque stage beneath the city clock tower. 

The progressive-styled beginning sees the audience move from ship site to Prospera’s cell by The Square’s Butterfly Lake. There, the exiled Duchess of Milan briefs her daughter Miranda, instructs her sprite Ariel, and chides a rebellious Caliban who emerges from the surrounding flax garden.

And yes, Papa Prospero has indeed become a Mama with a fashionably steam-punk attired Hannah Pratt playing a matriarchal magician, joined by Becky Dack’s Ariel and Rosie Anderson as daughter Miranda to complete a female triumvirate of central characters.

From there, it’s off to the main stage where the shipwrecked courtiers of King Alonso bemoan their situation; Alonso’s son Ferdinand becomes smitten with Miranda; the drunks discover the “moon-calf” Caliban and plot to take over the island, while Prospera the puppeteer orchestrates their fates through Ariel.

The whole show looks and sounds magnificent, thanks to splendid costumes by Charmagne Anthony and Suzanne Tamaki, Hanley Soloman’s Weta-wrought ray-guns, Leda Farrow’s set, and Kane Parsons’ music and Rob Thorne’s haunting taonga puoro.

The spectacle compensates somewhat for any loss of intimacy and engagement resulting from the pageant scale staging, one that tends to keep the performers at arm’s length from the audience. Prospera and Miranda’s opening scene for instance, played out at a distance from the viewers, could have taken place amongst us – while the main stage proves to be a deep and wide space for the actors to cover. Thankfully, the production is miked – another first for the production. 

To really stamp her authority on the pared-down 90-minute play-through piece, Prospera needs only to slow and weigh her words more closely. She has the presence, as well as a most able and energetic cast in support of her pivotal role.

Miranda and Ariel both impress with the clarity of their characterisations, diction and quality of their singing. Czahn Armstrong makes a striking statement as Caliban, and Jackie McKenzie provides a cleverly pitched and humorously sloshed female Stephano.

Shipwrecked lords Bruce Sinclair, Div Collins, Mark Kilsby and Adam Dodd imbue their scenes with purpose and fluency, helping the production unfold at a goodly clip.

The script adaption also helps things scoot along without leaving too many holes in the narrative, and while it is not quite the all-encompassing outdoor theatrical experience, The Tempest still retains the power to attract and captivate.


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Playful use of Steampunk

Review by John C Ross 05th Mar 2013

How does this highly challenging play come across, when mounted outdoors, in three separate venues, within our city’s Square? With all actors using headset mikes? With much of the cast costumed in Steampunk-style mock-Victorian garb? With the central character Prospero rendered as female – Prospera – a deposed ruling Duchess of Milan, now Mistress of the enchanted island, and (solo) mother rather than father to Miranda?

Certainly it does work, even if not always perfectly, and for an amateur production, that in itself is ground for rejoicing. It looks good and is often intriguing enough to validate its disconcerting oddnesses, even for a Shakespeare-traditionalist like myself.

Mounting a Summer Shakespeare production outside means gambling on getting dry, warm, wind-less conditions and, so far at least, this production has been lucky. (I recall a Massey production a couple of decades ago when every performance except the first had to be located indoors, out of the rain.)

Director Vanessa Stacey’s decision to mount this show in The Square, a very public space, means that just about all the set-elements, and all the lighting and sound equipment, need to be brought out and assembled for every performance, and then stowed safely away again afterwards, off-site. Naturally, this would favour keeping the technical facilities relatively simple. Still, one would have to say that, for the first night’s performance, whereas the first and third venues, in the “Te Marae o Hine” area (for the “shipwreck” scene), and in front of the clocktower, were well-lit, the second venue, in front of the duckpond, was underlit.

There were also issues of sight-lines for the action and the sound-system using this second venue, essentially Act I scene 2, up to the end of the confrontation between Prospera and Caliban (but preceding the entry of Ferdinand, for which the audience moves to the third venue).

Caliban remained at the back of a part of the audience, and his amplified voice came through a speaker quite some distance away. From my area of the audience, one could not properly see him, which was a shame, since this character, as played by Czahn Armstrong, is a formidably macho figure with a splendidly wild-man kind of costuming. Also, there were moments when the voices did not come through the sound system, which drew undesirable attention to it.

For those (like myself till now) who’ve not met Steampunk, it matches Victorian costume with turn-of-the-twenty-first-century technical devices, such as, here, ray-guns rather than swords or pistols. The Victorian idiom is used playfully, with Prospera’s and Miranda’s skirts cut short at the front. All these costumes are great fun, and handsome. On the other hand, it seems an odd choice to dress the fairies, nymphs and sirens (even when playing goddesses in the masque sequence in Act V) entirely or almost entirely in black (is this an All Black mode?). Ariel, played adequately by Becky Dack, is however wholly in white, in pleasingly weird attire.

Making Prospera explicitly female intriguingly changes the meanings of her relationships, yet she still has to come across as a potent authority-figure and wielder of magical powers, for the play to work. It’s a big ask, and Hannah Pratt’s rendition of the role, while definitely viable, remains in places a little under-powered. Maybe she can grow more power in later performances.

It gives a different meaning to her overthrow, in the past, by her nasty genteel brute of a brother, Antonio, played here by Div Collins with convincing nastiness, plus a sinister eye-patch and walking stick. That overthrow becomes sexist, instead of envious treachery towards an older brother, and her eventual triumph over him is re-inscribed as a feminist victory. It alters the meanings of her relationship to her daughter, and her daughter’s suitor. Also, one senses that Prospera’s maintaining of control over Ariel and Caliban has been rendered more precarious and stressful (perhaps it’s right for her to keep Caliban at a safe distance).

The young couple, Miranda and Ferdinand, played by Rosie Anderson and Conil Tod, are good value, with emerging romantic charm. Antonio’s ally Sebastian (Michael Horne) is low-key yet plausibly corruptible. 

As well as student actors, there are several older troupers enlisted in the cast, with Mark Kilsby a strongly eloquent Gonzalo, and Bruce Sinclair, as Alonzo, King of Naples, given little to do till near the end, abruptly emerging as a regal character with force and authority. Jacky McKenzie plays an ambiguously gendered Stephano, with a student, Jak Edens, as Trinculo; their scene together with the drunken Caliban needs to find its rhythms. 

Lamentably, due to circumstances beyond my control, I arrived too late to see properly the first scene, the shipwreck, and will have to catch it in a later performance; but it appeared to be fairly ingeniously choreographed, with the waving of stylized tempestuous waves. The second venue simply utilises the area as it is. The third venue includes a stage-platform, with various intriguing and decorative elements, designed by Leda Farrow.

Overall, it’s a good enjoyable show.


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