Theatre In Focus: The Tempest

Haven't seen any Shakespeare in a while?

Even though we lost many summer Shakespeare companies this year and Stratford is a bit too far, there still are some of the Bard's works going on, hidden deep within the city's core.

Alchemy Theatre's mandate states that it "commits to presenting classical theatre using both classical and modern means and methods." As one enters the 60 seat space, tucked neatly and quietly on Tecumseth Ave in the Queen and Bathurst vicinity, a huge screen displays a swirling graphic of the map of Earth twisting over and over, perhaps a foreshadow of the Tempest that is to follow.

Smoke billows in the space with the music, an eerie collection of hollow sounds, that softly plays in the background. Lights fade and a storm is seen and heard on the screen. Moments later we are whisked to a cave and the screen opens to an electronic face staring at the crowd. Like the great Wizard of Oz he shouts his opening speech. This is our Prospero. Certainly the means for which the company strives for in their mandate to take a stab at The Tempest.

Simon Michellepis, who started the company in 2003, has put together a nice tight space, equipped with all the state of the art lighting and sound. It allows for a lot.

"I do almost exclusively Shakespeare," says Michellepis, "and I'm working my way through the canon. There was no special motivation to do this play, any more than any other Shakespeare play. All Shakespeare has current relevance at all times."

The story of magic, vengeance and love is Shakespeare's last piece. In it he wraps up many of his own personal loose ends and leaves many lines that seem to be autobiographical. For that reason alone it is inherent that we pay close attention.

Thirteen actors come and go through the play, some only on the screen, no doubt at a computer somewhere else in the building. This is an interesting and unique approach, though one wishes that they could see more of those actors in the flesh, for that is so necessary at times. But 'no risk no know' and the risk factor is huge in making some of these visual attempts. The actors are giving everything they have and the production shows that.

"Theatre should be enjoyable for the audience, a respectful working environment for the cast and production team, and perhaps a small contribution to the upward march of humanity through the sharing of experiences and insights into the human condition."

In his attempt Simon has put this piece together and pulled no expense all around. The show is about two and a half hours and does require some focus and patience on the part of the audience for optimum enjoyment. But it is not without it's heavily visual stimulus as well.

Pretty cool what you can find hidden all around the city of you look well enough.

The Tempest runs until May 13th at Alchemy Theatre.

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