Botanic Gardens: The Dell, Wellington

11/02/2023 - 26/02/2023

Production Details

By William Shakespeare
Directed by Megan Evans

Presented by Summer Shakespeare Wellington


For our 2023 production and to celebrate the 40th year of Summer Shakespeare Wellington, we will be presenting The Tempest, directed by Megan Evans, at the Dell in the Botanic Gardens.

“What does enough look like?”

Summer Shakespeare Wellington is proud to present a new production for 2023, The Tempest, directed by Megan Evans.

This hopeful and inspiring eco-ethical production will explore the nuanced and complex human (and more-than-human) relationships on this beautiful planet.

Come with us, and explore what it means to be human.

Director’s Note:

Enough? What does ‘enough’ look, sound, feel, taste, smell like? In The Tempest,Shakespeare’s Prospero is an occupier, an enslaver, a revenge-seeker. Yet as he achieves many of his goals, he starts to see some of the limits on his powers. By the end of the play, he voluntarily sets down his ‘supernatural’ powers, accepts his own flawed humanity as ‘enough’ and opens space for healing to begin.

We need to change everything.

To change everything, we need everyone. We need climate scientists and sociologists. But we also need actors and artists to help imagine new ways – wider, fairer, co-creative ways of preparing together for the tempests to come.

The Dell, Botanic Gardens
11th – 26th February 2023


Cast X
India Worsnop as Prospero |
Charlie Potter as Ariel |  
Sean Farrell as Caliban |  
Anna Secker as Miranda |  

Cast Y
James Bayliss as Prospero |  
Maea Shepherd as Ariel |  
Rachel McLean as Caliban |  
Tori Kelland as Miranda

Fri 10th – X
Sat 11th – Y
Sun 12th – X

Tues 14th – X
15th – Y
16th – X
17th – Y
18th – X
19th – Y

Tues 21st – Y
22nd – X
23rd – Y
24th – X
25th – Y
26th – TBC (weather reserved night)



Charlie Potter (she/her) | Maea Shepherd (she/her) – Ariel |

Sean Farrell (he/him) | Rachel McLean (she/her) – Caliban |

James Bayliss (he/him) | India Worsnop (she/her) – Prospero |

Tori Kelland (she/her) | Anna Secker (she/her) – Miranda |

Seb Kerebs (he/him) – Ferdinand |

Phil Nordt (he/him) – Stephano |

Susan Williams (they/them) – Gonzalo |

Linda Dale (she/her) – Alonso |

Tom Vassar (he/him) – Antonio |

Susannah Donovan (she/her) – Sebastian |

Anna Southerland (she/her) – Trinculo |

Gus Lindsay (he/him) - Boatswain/Ensemble |

Aroha Te Whata (she/her) - Master of the Ship/Ensemble |

Hannah Grant (she/her) - Adrian/Ensemble |

India Lindsay (she/her) – Ensemble |

Manisha Singh (she/her) – Ensemble |

Kirsty Simpson (she/her) - Franciso/Ensemble

Theatre ,

2 hrs

The calm before The Tempest, with humour

Review by Sarah Catherall 13th Feb 2023

In a summer marked by unprecedented floods and crazy weather, it’s fitting that this year’s Wellington Summer Shakespeare opens with a shipwreck and a storm. In Act I of The Tempest, a crew battle a storm around Italy and I can’t help but think of all those up north filling sand bags as they prepare for Cyclone Gabrielle.

We sit on chairs and blankets in the Dell on a stunning Wellington evening as director Megan Evans tells us she wanted to create an ecologically-based interpretation of The Tempest.

The Dell is the perfect setting. [More]


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A clearly expressed, visually interesting and stimulating celebration of Summer Shakespeare’s 40th year

Review by John Smythe 12th Feb 2023

O brave new world that has such talent in it! This year’s Wellington Summer Shakespeare production of The Tempest fields a cast of 22 with two sets of leading roles (Cast X and Cast Y) plus a production team of 16 skilled practitioners. Their clarity of purpose and presentation ensures we are fully engaged throughout.

The Dell at the Botanic Gardens offers a lush and verdant setting, in contrast to ten years ago when A Tempest Off Matiu Somes Island (directed by Paul Stephanus) was largely set in that island’s dystopian quarantine pens. (That was not a Summer Shakespeare; 2013 saw Antony and Cleopatra at The Dell)

It was 19 years ago that Sara Brodie directed the only other Wellington Summer Shakespeare The Tempest, with a Pacific island setting. “Dense green bush provides cover for entrances and exits,” I wrote in the National Business Review, “as Samoan song, dance and drumming set the moods and rhythms for magical action.”  

Most scholars agree The Tempest is Shakespeare’s final play (although he later collaborated with John Fletcher on Two Noble Kinsmen and Henry VII). Many also believe the magician Prospero was the Bard’s own alter-ego and some say he actually played the role in 1611, signing-off by asking his audience to set him free of further responsibility to enchant.

Having wrought up a storm to bring those who usurped his dukedom of Milan and banished him to the remote island he and his daughter Miranda (now 15) have occupied for a dozen years, Prospero’s desire for revenge dissipates by the end of the play. He even relinquishes his supernatural powers.

“Its blend of comedy, tragedy and social problem issues with supra-human and abstract elements, defies easy thematic definition,” I wrote in the NBR (13 Feb, 2004). “On the other hand its genre-busting, multi-sensory potential leaves it wide open to interpretations that suit the age of any given performance and its audiences.”

In her programme note, this year’s director Megan Evans writes, “Enough? What does ‘enough’ look, sound, feel, taste, smell like? In The Tempest,Shakespeare’s Prospero is an occupier, an enslaver, and a revenge-seeker. He often speaks for others, even about their own experiences.” The relevance to colonialism is clear.

“In developing this production,” Evans continues, “we have looked for opportunities to let characters speak more for themselves. We have also worked hard to unsettle Prospero’s settled assumptions: that he has earned his ‘supernatural’ power; that he is entitled to direct these powers as he sees fit; and that he can afford to ignore the mounting costs of his inactions.”

Yes, the sharing out of the text, through re-enactment of back stories, works well as a way of giving the Neapolitan royals and courtiers more of a voice, and those actors more to do, while bringing large tracts of exposition into present action. However, the decision to dilute Prospero and Miranda’s vilification of Caliban as a savage, misshapen monster, presumably to serve the purpose of critiquing colonial oppression, gives me pause. I can’t help feeling it ventures towards the ‘noble savage’ myth.

The story of Shakespeare’s Caliban is riddled with moral dilemmas. His mother, Sycorax, exiled as an evil witch, gave birth to him on the island then died. As the only inhabitant when Prospero and Miranda arrived, Caliban befriended them and showed them how to survive. Thanks to the books he brought with him, Prospero developed his magical powers and also educated Miranda who, in turn, tried to educate Caliban. But when Caliban’s desire to people the isle with Calibans drove his attempted rape of Miranda, a justifiably enraged Prospero enslaved him and restricted his access to most of the island.

None of my party of four recall this being revealed at The Dell, nor Miranda calling him an “abhorred slave” whom she once pitied, taking pains to teach to him to speak until she realised his “vile race” could not be civilised, therefore he deserves to be confined. My notes suggest she simply says, “I pitied him.” And this Caliban is a well-shaped human who holds a rather attractive looking, though apparently smelly, fish head – which only works as a puppet device when he’s trying to hide from the shipwrecked drunken butler Stephano and jester Trinculo. There is nothing deeply confronting about this Caliban or his circumstances.

The Tempest is the last of Shakespeare’s ‘problem plays’ and this production shows that attempts to address the problematic elements without substantial rewrites  become problematic in themselves. I tend to agree with those who say let the character flaws remain; that allowing the audience to recognise and wrestle with them is inherently dramatic and engaging.

Prospero’s enslavement of Ariel as the agent of his powers, justified by his having freed the spirit from Sycoraxian bewitchment, fares better in this version although we could feel more strongly about the injustice of the master’s continued refusal to grant liberty – until he does. But Ariel’s not getting too stressed about it is a valid choice, I guess, which we can recognise as a syndrome.

There is also an environmental theme in this production, manifested in the plastic garbage that provides the magical banquet served to the royal party and which pollutes the ocean – effectively deployed on the swathes of blue fabric that have evoked the storm-tossed seas (Production Designer, Megan Gladding). On a tangentially related note, having seen the Neapolitan royals and lords clad in fine clothes in the aforementioned flashback, it does look odd for them to be just as smart 12 years later on the island, despite having suffered a shipwreck.

This balmy Friday night we are treated to Cast X. Maea Shepherd* (she/her) is in fine voice as Ariel (he/him), actively engaging us at every turn of his spirited intrigues. Despite being stripped of all grossness and clad instead in simple clothes with the fish head in place of one hand, Sean Farrell clearly articulates Caliban’s position.

India Worsnop (she/her) is a validly thoughtful, attentive and daughter-loving Prospero (he/him), with the deep-set anger only erupting in bursts. Anna Secker’s Miranda is wonderfully uncultivated, inquisitive and eager to discover the wonders of the ‘brave new world’ that has washed up on their island. Although love at first sight is a trope of many Shakespeare plays, it is especially credible when she first claps eyes on Ferdinand, Prince of Naples, and her unalloyed ecstasy at finding her love is requited is a high point of the night.

The remaining cast is the same for each performance.

As the prince abroad in the ‘real world’, if we can call it that, Sebastian Kerebs’ Ferdinand complements Miranda well. In fact the bourgeoning of love in this new generation becomes the most powerful motivator of Prospero’s relinquishing his powers.  

Half of Shakespeare’s all male court of Naples character have been legitimately recreated as female: Queen Alonsa (Linda Dale), her sister Sebastienne (Susannah Donovan) and Lord Adrian (she/her) (Hannah Grant). Prospero’s brother, Antonio (Tom Vassar) conspires credibly with Sebastienne and Lord Francisco (he/him) is played by Kirsty Simpson (she/her). Alonsa’s Counsellor, Gonzago, is an impressively Panglossian optimist, as played by Susan Williams (they/them).

To excellent comic effect, Philip Nordt plays the drunkard Stephano and Anna Kate Sutherland offers many a jest as Trinculo. India Lindsay and Manisha Singh play the spirits personating Iris and Ceres in the Betrothal Masque (composed by Felix Ashworth) summoned up by Prospero to celebrate his daughter’s betrothal. Aroha Te Whata and Angus Lindsay complete the cast as the Ship’s Master and Boatswain respectively.

Other designers include Sarah Bell (Costume and Puppetry), Neal Barber (Lighting) and Matthew Parker (Sound). With voices enhanced by stage floor mics and Ariel’s radio mic, The Tempest is a clearly expressed, visually interesting and stimulating celebration of Summer Shakespeare’s 40th year.  

*Although Charlie Potter is the designated Ariel in Cast X, Maea Shepherd is playing to role in all the initial performances.


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