To produce William Shakespeare’s final known play is no easy task. Add to that, the pressure of bringing it to life under incredibly-unpredictable weather conditions in open air is no less.
One could only imagine the tempest that was brewing in the minds of the production team that graced the Viharamahadevi Amphitheater stage on April 1 and 2. However, this year’s ‘Shakespeare in the Park’ proved, yet again, that no storm could cloud the enduring spirit of a team of thespians who
aim to entertain.
A cloudy Sunday night greeted the venue on April 2, where we found ourselves comfortably seated in the vast space provided by the Viharamahadevi Amphitheater, awaiting the opening of “The Tempest” by William Shakespeare, brought to life by AnandaDrama and presented by The Workshop Players. We prayed to the Weather Gods to hold off the rain for the next two hours (although we suspect the production team conducted their own anti-rain rituals prior to starting the show).
Prayers and rituals were answered; the minute lights came on the stage, the clouds above us disappeared, as if giving permission to the actors to replicate the storm they had been intending to make. Replicate, the actors did: not by loud thunderclaps and audio simulations of roaring seas, but by a simple yet effective method of body language on the part of the soon to be shipwrecked crew, tossing and swaying in line with the tempestuous ripples of the ocean.
Only when the stage was fully illuminated did we see the full set, which was beautifully and aptly made to complement a marshy island. The lighting scheme throughout the production was consistent, and complemented the mood and delicacy of the story perfectly. The nuances of purple and red used in the background did not go unnoticed, and certainly helped sustain the performances given on stage.
In terms of performance, it was not lost on the viewers that the entire production team had worked very hard to do justice to the Bard’s final play. Unlike many of his other plays, “The Tempest” takes place in real time, which means there are no lapses of days and weeks, only a matter of hours, in which time the actors are meant to portray character developments and progressions. This was successfully executed by many of the actors, including the actor who portrayed Prospero (Anuk de Silva), who arguably had the rather difficult task of sustaining the production, which he did successfully.
The character of Caliban was brought to life by a seasoned thespian (Nandun Dissanayake), portraying a far different and unique version to the ‘inhuman, deformed’ creature that usually accompanies his description. Instead, this Caliban was portrayed with more focus on his characteristics as an insolent, rebellious, unwilling slave, rather than on his strange appearance. The acting was effortless, and the articulation of lines helped even the most clueless audience understand what he was saying.
Notable performances were also given by the actors who portrayed Adrian (Vihan Wickramasurendra) and Gonzalo (Amaz Irshad), who impressively sustained their characters throughout the production. The characters of Stephano (Vishan Gunawardena) and Trinculo (Andre Howson), the King’s silly and perpetually drunk servants, were also brought to life beautifully by the actors, who knew exactly how to capitalise on the humour, coupled with just the right use of slapstick, which tickled the audience every time they appeared on stage.
The title of “Star of the Show,” however, has to be given to the young actor portraying Ariel (Leeth Singhage), who left the viewers in awe with his perfect characterisation of the airy island spirit; light on his feet and magical in his movements. Add to that his singing capabilities, which left the audience with goosebumps every time he sang, and you get an actor who has a long and promising career
on stage in future.
The entire production was uplifted by its use of mystical music, song, and dance, which gave the audience the feeling of it taking place in a mysterious yet beautiful island, full of charming creatures. Special mention must go to the directors’ capitalisation of impactful moments, such as the scene in which Ariel is set free by his master Prospero, which was a tear-jerking moment indeed. It was also heartening to witness a range of young actors on stage, which we certainly hope encouraged young children to become more involved in theatre and in Shakespeare in particular.
Overall, the production of “The Tempest” that graced us on Sunday was a joyful celebration of song, dance, and theatre, and a real pleasure to have watched. Applause to the directors Nishantha de Silva and Ishtartha Wellaboda, AnandaDrama, The Workshop Players, Producer Jerome de Silva (who never disappoints), and the entire cast and crew for a wonderful evening in appreciation of William Shakespeare’s