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The Tempest for No One

"full of the roughest magic"

The Tempest is the perfect play for these times, argues Pierce Wilcox. His livestreamed version "will be exactly as Shakespeare intended. Prove me wrong."

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The Tempest for No One

Date: 21 Mar 2020
When the storm comes, the rich survive and the vulnerable suffer.

This is barely worth writing down. We all know it. Crisis doesn’t upend systems, it entrenches them.

You can know that intellectually, and it doesn’t prepare you for seeing everyone you’ve ever worked with, plus almost everyone you love, end up unemployed over the space of a week.

A lot of companies are doing the right thing for their workers – Griffin is, as always, a light on the hill – and the independent sector is amazing at taking care of its own.

But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared and upset. First for the loss of income, and second for everyone who has stories to tell and ideas to share and skills they’ve honed over years of practise, and nothing to do any more.

So, with the glorious aid of Cobbstar Productions, who leapt on board to make us a professional video outfit, we’re gonna stream some theatre. If it goes well, if enough people donate, we can make this a going concern and create a platform for all sorts of artists to put on shows for everyone to watch in the comfort of their own quarantine.

Does it still count as theatre? If it’s on Audrey Journal, then yes. But don’t fact-check me.

We’re doing The Tempest first.

The Tempest

My fellow creative Antoinette Barbouttis hates Shakespeare. I love Shakespeare. I went to her production of håmlet – A New Australian Play twice, because it’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen that happens to be a fiercely smart post-internet adaptation of Hamlet.

I was appallingly excited to see Bell’s new Hamlet, which everyone I trust said was tremendous. Then … you know.

So we’re doing a Shakespeare.

The Tempest is a play about the magic of theatre. It’s a celebration of the power of live performance. Then, suddenly, it’s a farewell to all of that, for a while. Prospero breaks his staff and drowns his books, and since the Victorian critics decided Prospero was Shakespeare, we’ve read that as Will himself saying goodbye to the theatre.

Maybe that’s what we’re doing. Not a goodbye, but an au revoir. Staffs (staves?) can be repaired, if you know a good prop maker. Books can be reprinted. When the world is set to rights and magic is called for again.

Or, as Joe Biden would say, that’s all malarkey and it’s time to get about the no-malarkey express.

Shakespeare co-authored more plays after The Tempest. Prospero is a vindictive imperial patriarch who deserves to be brought low.

Also the secret about Shakespeare is that, like all the rest, this one makes no sense and is full of impossible directions and bad jokes by incongruous comic relief characters, who the serious characters forget about halfway through.

The livestream

We’re creating a chaotic livestream where I attempt to mount a serious, sombre production and Antoinette interrupts to rightfully tear the play apart, impose social distancing, and clean exposed surfaces with a religious intensity.

It would be inspiring to say that Shakespeare wrote King Lear during plague lockdown, and that we are all relying on art to get us through this. That finding tiny moments of connection through a screen might be the closest we get to the warm embrace of a loved one for the next few months. We need to seize these moments of magic while we can.

I can’t promise any of that. This is a wild idea we’ve thrown together in a week-and-a-half because artists are intense, desperate people who didn’t have 9-5 jobs to begin with and just lost the ones they do have and would probably do anything if there was the hint of a camera pointed their way.

Theatre people are also the most generous souls I know, and we’ve been overwhelmed by the influx of support from people who love this art form and are willing to give whatever it takes to see it continue – like our composer, who’s gone into self-isolation and has passed on sound design duties to his one-year-old baby. That’s what we’re about.

The Tempest for No One is going to be strange, and occasionally honest, and full of the roughest magic. It will be exactly as Shakespeare intended. Prove me wrong.

Summon his bones with darkest necromancy and make them rattle and moan their way to our studio to shut us down for being disrespectful. I dare you. Until that shrieking skeleton shuts us down, nothing will.

Links drop early next week.

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The Tempest for No One

The Tempest is the perfect play for these times, argues Pierce Wilcox. His livestreamed version "will be exactly as Shakespeare intended. Prove me wrong."

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