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Review: The Tempest at The Octagon Theatre

Review by Tatum Stafford

Ethereal, innovative and heart-warming; Black Swan Theatre Company have produced yet another triumphant show in The Tempest, which opened to a raucous sold-out crowd on Wednesday night.

The show started with a bang as the lights slightly dimmed and the cast of 11 broke out into a spirited sea shanty (which humorously referred to jobs of people in the audience, thanks to a few pre-show conversations). As the lights dimmed completely, the cast held up a number of items; jackets, scarves, a necklace and a book, and told us that they had been generously lent by audience members to help tell the story. This was a really unique and inviting way to welcome us into the space and help us to feel apart of the story.

The set, designed by Zoe Atkinson (who also designed the costumes) was incredibly striking and very well utilised by the cast throughout the show. It consisted of a round circle filled with sand, three layers of curved staging at one end of it, and a teardrop-shaped staircase that led down underneath the stage at the other end. The set also utilised a machine that sifted sand into a single strand, continuously, for two hours. This was such an impressive feat and helped articulate the passage of time throughout the piece.

Director Matt Edgerton has done a phenomenal job assembling this ensemble of powerhouse performers, who complete every intricate movement with purpose and grace. His blocking makes use of the entire set and created some really exciting moments between characters and their environment. Movement direction from Sam Chester was sublime.

In what is such a captivating ensemble piece, it’s hard to single out performances from individual members of the troupe. Everyone was consistent, committed, and united in weaving this somewhat intricate story. Special mention, however, to cast member Pavan Kumar Hari’s composition and percussive abilities throughout the show, Charlotte Otton’s hilariously tipsy turn as Stephanie, Humphrey Bower’s compassionate yet commanding performance as Prospero, and the gorgeous chemistry between Phoebe Sullivan (Miranda) and Ian Wilkes (Ferdinand).

Interestingly, one of the most memorable moments in the show didn’t involve any of the ensemble of performers. Instead, the audience were placed centre stage, when a video was projected onto a white sheet. Select audience members were interviewed and filmed before the show, and asked what the secret to their marriage is. It was such a touching inclusion to an already emotive and powerful show, and it served to further invite the audience into the world of the show.

Mention must also go to Lucy Birkinshaw’s stirring lighting design, Tim Collins’ sound design (which perfectly complemented Hari’s compositions), and Jessica Russell’s video design.

Through this powerful production, this iconic Shakespeare play has not only been reimagined, but redefined. It is incredibly exciting to see cleverly produced interpretations like this hit the stage in Perth, and I can’t wait to see what Black Swan will offer us in 2022.

Image Credit: Daniel J Grant


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