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Putting on The Tempest creates a number of interesting production issues in regards to Shakespeare’s work. This play is widely considered to be his final written work, yet it is a production that is uncommon; both in performance frequency and audience’s awareness. It is also known as one of Shakespeare’s dark comedies, mainly due to the very light focus on comedy and a rather heavy focus on the revenge and anger between characters. And, from a stage design point-of-view, it is set on a mysterious island, combining ethereal spirits and magic. So, while these concepts are unique for a modern audience, the question then becomes… how to approach the work?

Simplification is our apporach; a focus on the text, rather than the set, costumes and music. A stylised set has been created to highlight the dangers of the island. The sharp and jagged set communicates the darker ‘corners’ of the island, connoting danger and peril. This is also communicated through the addition of chairs. These objects symbolise the multiple properties and additional set pieces required for the production. From the ship to wood bundles, these chairs provide a further dimension for the characters to interact with.

The characters themselves are dressed primarily the same. The same costume elements unite the characters within this mysterious story, yet provide a base for minor differences. Each character displays small costume additions connoting their personalities, or visually distancing them from each other. The simplification of these costumes provides a means for communicating the inherently good and bad elements within each persona.

Finally, the music soundtrack is a consistent, rhythmical beat. This symbolises not only the beat for the island, but that of the humans upon it. Providing a background rhythm for the entire play highlights the moods and emotional journeys of each character. While the rhythm remains for the entire play, it is used to highlight the confrontation, mystery and magic of the island, while also providing a backdrop for the comedy and lovers too.

While The Tempest is presented using a stylised approach, the text is only altered in length. This sixty-minute adaptation is engaging and intriguing, providing a dynamic interpretation of one of Shakespeare’s greatest pieces.