New style for ‘The Tempest’

Sahara Breeze Productions’ multidisciplinary version of William Shakespeare’s magical comedy The...
Sahara Breeze Productions’ multidisciplinary version of William Shakespeare’s magical comedy The Tempest features a large cast, including (from left) Matt Brennan, Josh Black, Chris Cook, DonTownsend, Thomas Makinson and Zac Henry. PHOTO: ANDREW MACKAY
An immersive approach will give audience members a unique perspective on William Shakespeare’s most fantastical play, The Tempest, in a multi-disciplinary production by award-winning Otago theatre company Sahara Breeze (SBZ) Productions.

Regarded as the most lyrical, profound, and magical of Shakespeare’s comedies, The Tempest will be staged for a short season from tonight until Sunday, at Hanover Hall.

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 (Lizzie Thomson) for 12 years. She uses her magical powers to conjure up a fearsome storm, so that her enemies, including her treacherous brother Antonio (Chris Cook), are shipwrecked on the island.

What follows is an extraordinary sequence of murderous plots, drunken confusion, love, and redemption.

SBZ Productions have turned the former church into Prospera’s enchanted island, adding music, stunning costumes and physical theatre to put a contemporary spin on the play.

Director Blaise Barham’s vision for the piece is supported by assistant director Kaiser Coles, musical directors Sam Meikle and Meko Ng, physical theatre leader Becky Design, costume designer Sofie Welvaert, technical designer Josh Wiegman, and a cast of 25 actors, singers, dancers, and musicians.

The actors include Don Townsend, Jack Hanan, Matt Brennan, Josh Black, Chris Cook, Don Townsend, Thomas Makinson, Zac Henry, Sacha McConnon, William Larkins, Alexander Julian, Brent Caldwell, Aimee Freeman, and more.

Mr Barham said right from the moment of arrival, audience members would be drawn into an immersive experience, going along for the boat ride, experiencing the storm, and being encouraged to participate from time to time.

"We will also be focusing on bringing out the language and the themes of the play — including using physicality."

SBZ chose to stage The Tempest because it was such a "magical, fantastical" piece, filled with experimental ideas around white magic and science, which was in line with the theatre company’s preferred approach.

"We have been able to take a multi-disciplinary approach, including bringing in live music, live sound effects, and spectacular, steampunk-influenced costumes by Sofie Welvaert."

With a large cast and spectacular elements to bring to life, the team had decided to take a minimalistic approach to staging The Tempest, using props and the architecture of Hanover Hall to set the scene, rather than making sets.

With the audience seated in traverse, the cast was also able to use the hall’s gallery space and silks to represent the rigging of the ship and other elements.

"Our aim is to create a magical, dreamlike effect for the audience," he said.

Above all, SBZ’s production of The Tempest aims to remain true to Shakespeare’s status as an "amazing writer with a deep understanding of who we are as human beings".

 - Performances of Shakespeare’s The Tempest will be held tonight at 8pm, Friday at 1pm and 7.30pm, Saturday at 7.30pm, and Sunday at 2.30pm, at Hanover Hall, 65 Hanover St.