01/03/2016 - 13/03/2016
Directed by award-winning Auckland director Benjamin Henson, and starring internationally acclaimed actress Lisa Harrow as Prospero, AUSA Outdoor Summer Shakespeare present an exhilarating take on Shakespeare’s The Tempest at the Pop-up Globe Theatre from 3-13 March 2016. Shakespeare buffs Henson and Harrow will be working alongside a large cast of some of Auckland’s hottest performers and creative crew to produce a modern and innovative Summer Shakespeare for all.
Shakespeare’s last solo work for the stage sees the magician Prospero bring his enemies to his enchanted island, where love and magic intertwine in search of lasting reconciliation. Henson will once again intrigue audiences with an industrial flotsam and jetsam set design, contemporary soundtrack and gender neutral casting – highlighting the story and the energy each actor brings to their role. With a cast of 24, mixing established and emerging actors, this show is sure to be bursting with fervour, wild with style.
Auckland born Lisa Harrow is a former Royal Shakespeare Company Member, having being invited to join in 1969 after studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Major career highlights include winning the Australian Film Institute’s Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for The Last Days of Chez Nous (1992), starring alongside Judi Dench in stage play Twelfth Night and Sam Neil in the film The Omen III and being appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2015. She was invited to direct the 50th anniversary Summer Shakespeare production of King Lear in 2013 and will take to the stage once more in 2016 as Prospero the magician and exiled ruler of Milan.
Performed by a full cast and live musicians, this production marks a new departure in AUSA Outdoor Summer Shakespeare’s 50+ year history. The Summer Shakespeare will leave its regular location under the clock tower at the University of Auckland to join the Pop-up Globe for the 2016 season – providing a sensational opportunity for actors and audiences to experience a version of Shakespeare’s home theatre.
Pop-up Globe Auckland is a full-scale working temporary replica of the second Globe Theatre, originally built by Shakespeare and his company in 1614. The result of ground breaking international academic research and using a steel frame ‘skinned’ in plywood, the Pop-up Globe fuses cutting-edge scaffold technology with 400-year-old designs and superb contemporary performances to create an immersive 360 degree experience unlike any other.
“We are such stuff as dreams are made on …”
The Tempest plays:
Pop-up Globe Theatre: Bard’s Yard, 38 Greys Avenue, Auckland CBD
Tues 1 Mar, Thu 3 Mar, Sat 5 Mar & Fri 11 Mar 2-16, 8:00pm
Wed 9 Mar & Sun 13 Mar 2016, 1:00pm
2 hrs 30 mins (incl interval)
Solid theatrical fare punctuated with comic relief
Review by Dione Joseph 02nd Mar 2016
The Tempest is perhaps one of Shakespeare’s most well dissected, interpreted and idolised plays yet there is an irresistible allure for any admirer that will guarantee a full house. Last night’s PopUp Globe was no exception. Under the capable direction of Benjamin Henson and led by the superbly talented Lisa Harrow as Prospero, the workpromised to open up a world of the occult where storms rage and a remote island is fair game for any to colonise and cannibalise; where true love can be found, spirits freed and forgiveness won.
In this constantly changing environment caught between sky and sea, a clash amongst the ‘airy spirit(s)’ and those from ‘bogs, fens and flats’ a fertile ground is laid for a magician to works his machinations and manipulations before the grand dénouement. It must be said that replete with references to Christian ontologies of renaissance theology and philosophy, a product of the Jacobean and Elizabethan dramatic canon and within a contemporary context of critical colonial commentary (including the current crisis unfolding precisely in that part of the world, when the water becomes safer than the land) any undertaking of The Tempest is ambitious.
While this production doesn’t succeed in unpacking all its multi-faceted layers, the enthusiastic and dedicated cast and creatives do provide for an interesting and entertaining evening that is compromised mainly because of the acoustics and sightlines.
The show opens with a crew assailed by a malicious storm. The boat is heaving and the mariners Alonso (Allen Bartley), Ferdinand (Paul Trimmer), Sebastian (Sheena Irving), Antonio (Cherie Moore), Gonzalo (Mustaq Missouri), Stephano (Patrick Graham) and Trinculo (James Crompton) are bewailing their fate. They are joined by other Mariners and it is rowdy and mostly inaudible as the reverberations bounce across the venue. The few set pieces – bright orange chairs, simple sailors garb and a ‘flotsam-jetsam’ style – are in keeping with the theatrics of the Globe: a thrust stage that projects into a circular ‘pit’ surrounded by three tiers of raked seating.
We then find ourselves with Prospero (Lisa Harrow) and his daughter Miranda (Holly Hudson) observing the calamity from the shores of the island. However, this land is not their own and we discover Prospero and his daughter are in fact Italian refugees, served by the unearthly Ariel (Cole Jenkins/Jessie Lawrence and Ryan Dulieu), a former prisoner of a witch named Sycorax who dwelt upon the island and her progeny, Caliban (Travis Graham), a ‘gentle monster’. We discover that it was in obedience to Prospero that Ariel orchestrated the storm and it is a promise that much more magic meddling will take place as our hero/ine seeks to right the wrongs that have been brewing for the past twelve years.
With a 24-strong cast with a range of experience and skills, Henson has made a commendable effort in pulling together a production that for first-time Tempest audiences will provide a broad brushstroke of the narrative. The pacing is adequate at the best of times and highlights are the use of humour and groundling interaction, especially with the multiple entrances and exits.
Patrick Graham and James Crompton are particularly good at raising audience energy levels with their wrangling of poor Caliban (Travis Graham) and the latter captures much of the character’s trademark ambiguities including fluid loyalties, despair against his master and, to a marginal extent, touching upon the role of the slave narrative within a colonial context. However, the production as a whole does not delve into interrogating these themes or sub-themes and it is a missed opportunity when the current conversation is so centred on these topics.
The not-so-subtle theme of scurvy and its ramifications is a smart extended metaphor that manifests itself through orange incandescence and weaves the many narratives together. The symptoms of this sailor’s disease include night blindness, hallucinations and a hypersensitivity to light, sound and taste all of which are cleverly included in the work as is their ultimate saviour, vitamin C, found most commonly in oranges and lemons. Similarly, the orange pig and monkey masks are interesting visual signifiers however, unless it is a reference to Sycorax (mother of Caliban whose name has etymological roots to pigs and ravens), the link is not very clear.
The musicians, Mitchell Clark, Alexander Alford and Eins Lee, do create an interesting soundscape but their interjections, while well-meaning, often seem perfunctory, occasionally drowning out some of the actors and distracting rather than adding value to the overall coherence of the work.
Harrow is the undisputed star of the production yet even for her in the opening few scenes the acoustics of the venue create havoc. An enigmatic protagonist, she combines a brusque benevolence with the ability to respond to the emotional minutiae of those characters around her. While the first few scenes play out almost too fast (as the audiences settles into a new environment) her performance acquires the appropriate gravity and depth.
This is true for many of the other performers and a highlight is Henson’s arrangement of his Ariels, performed not by one but three actors, who bring a much needed musical lift to the production. All three possess excellent voices, though the familiar current musical references are a slightly odd juxtaposition to their eerie singing quality.
Equally Hudson as Miranda and Trimmer as Ferdinand have a few beautiful poignant moments but the intimacy is lost slightly in the large open air space. The actors in general find it tricky to navigate between large stylised movements for the crowd and capturing the nuances of private exchanges.
This production is very committed to the inherent theatricality of The Tempest but much of it does ride on Harrow’s commanding ability. At two and a half hours (including interval) is a rather heavy meal punctuated with genuine moments of comic relief and if you can forgive the acoustics and occasional sightline issues at least you can guarantee you will be fed some solid theatrical fare.
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