A fashion has developed in Shakespearean productions for directors to do as they will with Will. Some succeed in crafting contemporary and compelling new perspectives on his timeless wisdom and wit. But as Arts’ current offering of The Tempest confirms, grafted novelty without apparent purpose adds only ado about nothing and ‘nothing will come of nothing’ as Will himself once wrote. Very little did.
With its rich array of characters (corporeal and mystical), its conspiracies and contrasts love and discord, storm and calm, charming music and crude humour all magically orchestrated by Prospero and executed by his airy Spirit Ariel, The Tempest needs no grafted novelty to realise its potential.
Few should appreciate that potential more than director Paul Sherman. His knowledge and understanding of Shakespearean texts are local legend, his working experience on them, extensive. But despite Una Hollingworth’s atmospheric (and functional) design and Donald Hall’s enchanting music, he delivers a largely soulless production, lacking orchestration and choreography, and marked by posing without purpose and clumsy comic sequences.
He was not assisted by the patent inexperience of the younger cast members, nor by the imbalance in the performance skills of the troupe generally. His choice of a younger Prospero (Jonathan Strugnell) was bold but unrewarding. Of the nobles only Hugh Buckham (Gonzalo) was consistently believable. The absence of discernable text orchestration and controlled choreography allowed Stephano (Gary Kliger) and Trinculo (Bruce Baddiley) an excess of comic licence and deprived Caliban of pathos.
The evening did produce one highlight Japanese actor REIKO, a graduate of the Los Angeles Theatre Academy playing her first role in Australia. She moved like a Spirit, and captured and shared the magical quality of the play, complemented by occasional use of her native tongue.
This was the one graft Will may well have applauded.
Directed by Paul Sherman
Season 16 April–14 May 2005
Running time : Approx 2hrs 15 mins.