A darkly magical visual feast

The cast of The Tempest. Photo: supplied
The cast of The Tempest. Photo: supplied
Sahara Breeze Productions
Sunday, June 16

An impressive array of creative forces came together in the imaginative hands of Sahara Breeze (SBZ) Productions to create a stunning visual and aural interpretation of Shakespeare’s darkly magical The Tempest.

Directed by Blaise Barham, this modern interpretation of The Tempest combined The Bard’s mystical tale with live music, dance, spectacular sound effects, lashings of dry ice, and fabulous steampunk-inspired costumes. It also made excellent use of Hanover Hall as a backdrop and setting during a short season, which concluded on Sunday.

The Tempest follows the fortunes of Prospera (Sarah Barham), the exiled duke of Milan, who has been stranded on a remote island with her daughter Miranda for 12 years. She uses magic to conjure a storm, to shipwreck her enemies on the island.

Working in a series of ensembles, linked together by a wonderfully mischievous Ariel trio, played and sung with joy by Sacha McConnon, Jack Hollis-Wilson, and Alexander Julian, the cast unfolds a twisting series of murderous plots, drunken confusion, love and redemption.

The work of musical director Sam Meikle, who provided sterling support from the piano and helped create an array of sound effects, was integral to the show’s success.

Sarah Barham is strong and articulate in the role of the wronged and vengeful duke Prospera, managing her rapidly shifting moods with aplomb.

Lizzie Thomson brings a languid allure to daughter Miranda, who captures the heart of the shipwrecked Ferdinand, charmingly played by Jack Hanan.

The shipwrecked dukes, nobles, and officers, played with wit and humour by Don Townsend, Thomas Makinson, Matthew Brennan, Zac Henry, Josh Black and Chris Cook tossed dialogue quickly to and fro, and made good use of the stage space to effectively depict their trials and tribulations.

The drunken clowning pair of Stephano and Trinculo, riotously played by Aimee Freeman and Brent Caldwell, were a true delight.

And amid all these groupings, standing alone but striving to belong, was the grotesque Caliban, played with physicality, sympathy and, intriguingly, a Scottish accent, by Craig Storey.

Meko Ng was in very fine voice in her brief appearance as Ceres.

Helping to enhance the play’s minimal setting, with effective use of silks, dance and movement was the Physical Theatre Ensemble comprising Becky Hodson, Oli McKeown, Esther Smith, Imogen Duncan, Rochelle Brophy and Stella Wispinski.

Costumes by Sofie Welvaert were superb, giving each grouping their own distinctive looks — from steampunk to sorceress to swamp thing.

The large creative team and production management team played pivotal roles.

All in all, SBZ’s production of The Tempest was an entertaining visual feast, jam-packed with ideas and fun for both players and audience.

Review by Brenda Harwood