Indiana’s University of Notre Dame staged a record-breaking summer 2016 production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest – featuring a real-life aerialist as Ariel and a world-class juggler as Trinculo

Photographs by Matt Cashore for Notre Dame Magazine.

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The summer production of The Tempest at the University of Notre Dame’s professional theatre broke all records for the Festival’s 17-year history

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It was directed by West Hyler, who served as Staging Director for Cirque-du-Soleil’s first-ever Broadway production, Paramour.

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Prospero was Nick Sandys, Artistic Director for Chicago’s prestigious Remy Bumppo Theatre Company.

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The wind illusions were created by Daniel Wurtzel, known as an ‘air designer’, for his work on the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, the Jimmy Kimmel show, and for the flying effects in Finding Neverland on Broadway.

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Other notable actors in the production included Tony Award-winner and Broadway veteran John Herrera as Alonso, Alan Sader as Gonzalo (Alan is the instantly recognized ‘white-bearded guy’ from the Child Fund International commercials, and has been lovingly satirized on Saturday Night Live.)

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Jacob D’eustachio is one of the world’s great jugglers, and played Trinculo, and perhaps most importantly, Sarah Scanlon played Ariel on a static trapeze (A 24″ steel bar) for the entire show, coming down only in a stunning moment when ‘freed’ by Prospero.

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Go here to find out more about Shakespeare at Notre Dame.

Bristol Old Vic Theatre School present a revitalised production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest at the Redgrave Theatre, full of humour, dance and music

[Images by Toby Farrow]

Directed by Donnacadh O’Briain this comic re-telling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest amused and delighted the audience, showing off the talented Bristol Old Vic Theatre School graduates.

One of the tricky things about staging The Tempest is the play’s undertone of slapstick comedy, which at times jars with its more serious and magical elements. This BOVTS production at Clifton’s Redgrave Theatre decided to fully embrace the play’s comic and musical elements, updating them for 2016 with theatrical aplomb.

This was entirely fitting: by embracing the play’s more frivolous elements the production payed homage to the play’s rich afterlife, while seeking to enthral a new generation of Tempest-lovers.

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The farcical subplot was tackled by casting Stephano and Trinculo as wacky entertainers – swearing and coming out into the audience singing and clutching wine bottles. Jac Baylis played a camp Trinculo in white patent leather heels, matched by Tom Byrne’s comic and amped-up Stephano.

The pair’s jokes were provocative and cheeky, fully updated for their 2016 audience. But Shakespeare’s wordplay was never far – the comic explanation of the laboured ‘jerkin’ joke was clever, and reminded us of the original text’s aim to entertain.

In contrast, the play’s main plot stayed clear of these absurd elements –the lovers left to their innocent courtship, and Ariel, Prospero and Caliban locked in their eternal power struggle.

Danann McAleer was a gentle and wise Prospero, whereas Lily Donovan’s Miranda was full of emotion and youthful sensuality. Corey Montague-Sholay’s Ferdinand was young and playful, perfectly in sync with Miranda – childish squeals punctuating their lovers’ games.

Ariel (Dylan Wood) was eerie and his interactions with Prospero were profoundly moving, especially during the final ‘freeing’ scene. Ariel sang and moved beautifully, in contrast with Caliban (Josh Finan) who was a much earthier, boil-covered version of himself.

Caliban’s drunken antics with Stephano and Trinculo were funny, yet also poignant in his desperate enthusiasm for freedom. The spirited cast kept perfectly in time with Shakespeare’s tempo.

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The set design was simple and effective – suspended trees and a cloudy sky background representing the unspoilt nature of the isle. When the Neapolitan aristos arrived on the island, dressed in shiny shoes, suits and Ray-Bans, they looked wonderfully lost in this austere simplicity. Their masculine japes and peacock-like pruning were funny, but Gonzalo (Joey Akubeze) wasn’t as ridiculous as he is sometimes made out to be, cutting a more poignant, dignified figure here.

The island’s magic was threatening, weird and wonderful. Magic spirits were variously represented by hooded, chanting and dancing actors. The smallest of movements were used to create tension and suspense.

The magical masque commissioned by Prospero to celebrate Ferdinand’s and Miranda’s nuptials took a dark turn when it ended with a birth – Prospero rushing to the aid of the apparently lifeless ‘mother’ as Miranda cradled the ‘baby’. It was an interesting nod to Miranda’s absentee mother and her possible fate, perfectly timed at the cusp of Miranda’s marriage and burgeoning sexual maturity.