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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

THE TEMPEST (article first published : 2003-03-21)

The Department of Technology’s Department of Drama Studies has just completed a run of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest in The Courtyard Theatre featuring third year students of the department.

Shakespeare wrote The Tempest in the latter part of his life and it is interesting to note that the Oxford Companion to the Theatre describes the play as the “gravest and serenest of all the dramas”. Director Brian Pearce has chosen to inject his production with as much vigour as possible, giving his island an African setting inhabited by the spirits of ancestors. This therefore allows for the inevitable introduction of a piece of tribal dance towards the end of the play.

Nice idea overall, but he doesn’t always pull it off. The clue perhaps lies in the fact that this is a workshopped production. There are too many different elements that do not make for a cohesive whole.

As Prospero, Andile Mngadi holds it all together with a strong, articulate and regulated performance. Also worthy of mention are Wesley Woolfe as Caliban, Tommy Kyd as Ferdinand and Menzi Bikela as Stephano. Thulile Mahlaba made a proud and spunky Ariel and the wordless parting scene between Ariel and Prospero offered a nice poignant moment, introducing an element of romance between the two.

My biggest disappointment is that while characterisations were credible and projection was consistently good, the speech of many of the cast members was too fast and unintelligible - even from actors who have impressed me in the past. It was painfully clear that more rehearsals were required on text alone.

Alright, most of my professional theatre career has been focused on voice production and I know that this is my hobby horse and people will say “There she goes again …!” My contention, however, is that the Drama Studies Department at the Institute of Technology is a teaching establishment that prepares people for a career in the theatre industry, not only in South Africa but anywhere else in the world.

It is a given fact that the language of communication is now English and unless actors are proficient in English and can get their tongues round Shakespeare’s particularly articulate text, they will be unemployable. Trust me. I’m married to an actors’ agent and I know how many actors and actresses are rejected by casting directors because of the standard of their English.

The good news is that Tina le Roux’s lighting design was excellent and highly dramatic, with the audience entering the auditorium to the crashing sounds of a massive thunderstorm. I also loved the pleated skirts of the dancers. – Caroline Smart




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