Central School of Speech & Drama in collaboration with Dance Unlimited, The Tempest, The Production

Review in Issue 9-2 | Summer 1997

This was not a straight version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The audience was invited into St. Michael’s Church, Camden by a German woman wearing orange waterproofs. The oak doors creaked open onto a long corridor filled with relics from a shipwreck, the scent of incense, and the sound of a choir singing. Upon arrival at the altar, a giant table which stretched into the depths of the church was revealed. On one side sat twenty performers dressed for a black tie supper. On the opposite side were empty chairs awaiting the audience. The performers began to make polite conversation – with the audience, with each other, with no one in particular. They were all clearly mad and somewhat lost.

And so the next hour and a half passed. The Tempest presented as a shared story, as a communal storm in the performer’s confused minds. Large sections of text disappeared, some to resurface intact, others to bob up bloated beyond recognition. Rather like a Robert Wilson production, the text was used as ‘atmosphere’. And to a degree it worked. The collective confusion created a sense of being somewhere and nowhere, a story with a point and with no point.

Unfortunately, however, the piece had no rhythm. Instead of swimming along in its current, the audience were often bumped awake. The illusion of confusion was betrayed; the performance was not so much an insight into the heart of something as a by-product of process.

With only three weeks to create the site-specific show, all this is understandable. Central should take credit for continuing to develop its search into collaborative theatre practice. As for Dance Unlimited, if they can bring more discipline to their pursuit of distraction, who knows?

Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. May 1997

This article in the magazine

Issue 9-2
p. 22