Recently, Singapore Repertory Theatre staged, The Tempest, at Fort Canning Park and it invited the audience to immerse themselves in Prospero’s world of sorcery. Charmed at the prospect, I marched in to the park, armed with cushions, sandwiches and a sense of growing anticipation. I was definitely not disappointed and as the sky darkened, the actors emerged and brought to life a storm. The world of revenge, love and music came alive and how!
Catching Shakespeare in a park is joy in itself. The play unfolds against the beautiful city skyline and the wind lulls you in to a land beyond the mundane. Stretched out on the picnic mat, the experience is both delicate and relaxed though one must admit that there is nothing relaxed about the play, The Tempest. Considered Shakespeare’s last work, the play, is multi-layered and varied. It is replete with colonial undertones, power struggles, Jacobean court spectacles and magic. It even spills genres, by being serious and comedic in equal measures. Moreover, it is a love story and political intrigue all at the same time. The beauty is that though the characters are corrupted by greed, power and revenge, they yearn for reconciliation. In that sense, there’s a hope for redemption as Shakespeare offers a final spectacle to his audience before he retires.
Doing justice to such a play is difficult, but the SRT actors slipped in to their characters quite effortlessly, or so it seemed. Simon Robson as Prospero was extremely believable and it was most easy to imagine the playwright himself trying to connect with his audience through the protagonist. For me, the Prospero on stage was as much the character as he was the playwright hoping for audience- support. For that matter, each actor on the stage had a credible presence and Julie Wee as Miranda was as adorable as Shane Mardjuki as Trinculo, was funny. It was also a delight to see the actors using their bodies to enhance their dialogues. In fact, Theo Ogundipe as Caliban added such a physical dimension to his character that all his movements seemed to pay obeisance to a carefully choreographed dance piece. It was also a pleasant surprise to see my ex- colleague, William Ledbetter seamlessly morph in to Sebastian’s role.
The elaborate set, the costumes in white and the powerful performances were all praiseworthy. However, what impressed me most was the character interpretation of Ariel, the spirit. The script as such does not specify Ariel’s gender and there is much ambiguity on Ariel’s characterisation as well. In fact, most interpretations that I have seen presented Ariel as a delicate and waif-like creature. However, it differed here and refreshingly so. The Ariel on this stage had a distinct stage presence, a melodious singing voice and very noticeable bird characteristics! All I can say is that Ann Lek is as brilliant in her musical abilities as she is in her whimsical movements!
I thoroughly enjoyed Shakespeare in the Park and I am quite eager to see what SRT brings up next. About SRT
I am reading: A fast paced thriller, Krishna Key by Ashwin Sanghi and the evergreen classic, A Passage to India by E M Forster
Organisation: AG Home, Singapore.
The organisation featured this month (see side bar) is one that I have been closely associated with since 2013. I make frequent visits to the place and needless to say that I am extremely partial to their cause. It’s through the girls, I believe, that a better society is possible in the future.
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