The Tempest | Zen Zen Zo

With a cast of twenty-two actors, Zen Zen Zo’s The Tempest is back in Brisbane and it’s even more visually, aurally and physically alluring than its previous run.

As someone who had trained with Zen Zen Zo for four years, getting to see the dynamic staging of this provocative colonial narrative was a reunion of sorts. So, it was lovely when the characters interacted with the audience members in preshow and throughout the performance, as I got to lock eyes, hold hands and share a smile with the actors.

Directed by the Artistic Director and co-founder of Zen Zen Zo, Lynne Bradley, the Brook St Trinity Parish Hall is transformed into Prospero’s island. Prospero’s picturesque ship is at the centre of the Church from which we branch into the worlds of Alonso, the King of Naples, of Caliban, tortured servant and of Ferdinand in his cell. The characters immerse the audience in their world by navigating them around the island, often placing them in the centre of attention. As audience members, we had to watch out for characters crawling across the ground underneath us or murmuring enchantments in our ear, truly enrolling us as creatures in the world of the play.

The Matilda award-winning production is a combination of European avant-garde theatre and the Japanese theatre forms Noh and Butoh and featuring a hauntingly beautiful music score by Emma Dean, which all combine to show the problematized and equally complex nature of Prospero, played by Wayne Jennings. Throughout the performance, Jennings continually gets the audience to reflect and ponder upon whether we hate or love him, whether we sympathise with his character or disregard his past experiences. Is he just and fair or is he a self-important, autocrat that manipulates all within his reach.

None are more so manipulated than his obedient servant Ariel embodied in two forms by Josh Curtis and Gina Tay Limpus, whose vocal repertoire were filled with the most striking tones of anguish, love, hope and loss. I also loved the interactions and movement sequences between Ariel’s fellow spectres as well as the rapport between Antonio (Ben Adams) and Sebastian (Siobhan Gibbs), who added warmth and laughter to a dark narrative.

The Tempest is a play in which none of the narratives have much substance. Instead, the focus is on the complexities of being human and the consequences of our actions. On the surface, the play appears like a world of magic, love and loss, but Bradley asks us to look beneath the surface. She asks us to think and make parallels between the characters’ world and the world of our own. How are our political leaders different than Prospero? What are our past and present relationships to the Indigenous People of the land? Can we change it?

This production blurs the line between the worlds of imagination and the real through exquisite combinations of movement, appealing to the audience through its political commentary on the world around us through the lens of the characters. It’s magical, intellectually confronting and visually compelling from beginning to end.

Virag Domby saw The Tempest on 16 August 2019. The Tempest plays at Trinity Parish Hall, Fortitude Valley until 31 August 2019.

Director | Lynne Bradley

Producer | Nicole Reilly

Assistant Director | Gina Tay Limpus

Assistant Producer | Lauren Story

Musical Directors | Josh Curtis & Wayne Jennings

Lighting Designer | Simon Woods

Set Designers | Drew Der Kinderen & Ben Adams

Costumier | Kaye Gannaway

Composers | Emma Dean, Colin Webber, Josh Curtis & Siobhan Gibbs

Performers | Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre Company. Wayne Jennings as Prospero and Josh Curtis and Gina Tay Limpus as Ariel with Travis Wesley, Maja Liwszyc, Luke Davis, Ben Adams, Siobhan Gibbs, Ross Miller, Heidi Harrison, Georgia Politakis, Lauren Story, Sho Webber, Jazz Zhao, Melissa Budd, Amy Cooker, Grace Keane-Jones, Liam Linane, Joshua McLean, Nicholas Mohr and Kai Woods

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