An irreverent, pared-down and post-Apocalyptic take on Shakespeare’s The Tempest

Last month, director Sarah Redmond helmed an “edited, reinvented off-West End production of The Tempest” at London’s Waterloo East Theatre. It’s an experience she describes as an “incredible voyage of discovery with 14 terrific actors,” adding that: “I learnt so much about Shakespeare, editing and budgets!”

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Due to budget restrictions, Sarah decided to take out all of Prospero’s ‘mystical magic’ and replace it with a Derren Brown-influenced element of mind control. “Prospero has endured a lot,” she explains, “and when exploring the play I felt he would be dark and bitter.”
Achieving Sarah’s desired degree of darkness as Prospero was actor Tom Keller. “This approach definitely made him very much more ‘mortal’,” she says. “Our Prospero was grumpy, simmering and short tempered.”

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Despite its placing as the very first play in the First Folio, in which it opens the ‘Comedies’ section, The Tempest is rarely thought of as one of Shakespeare’s funniest works. “There are comedic scenes,” Sarah says, “but by removing the otherworldly magic, I definitely removed the expected lightness of the play.”
However, Sarah believes that her approach did allow comedy to flourish in unexpected places, “Especially in the lovers’ scenes.”

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The play’s actual comedic scenes (played by Matthew Harper, Lucy Harwood and Sy Thomas) also received a thorough editing from Sarah, “But the comedy beats exist,” she says, “and are very obviously placed. Losing a lot of the cultural references on one hand could be sacriligious. On the other hand, it does get to the point.”

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Sarah believes that her anti-purist production succeeded because ultimately she had trust in the play and in her casting. “I edited The Tempest down to an hour and a half,” she says. “It works. Tell the story and don’t wallow.”

Find out more about Sarah Redmond here.
Find out more about Waterloo East Theatre here.

Photography by Rob Youngston

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