"With The Tempest, Zen Zen Zo has absolutely nailed it, applying layer upon layer, of contemporary interpretation while retaining Shakespeare's verse ... but what makes The Tempest really work is Lynne Bradley's direction. Everything is just so well thought-out.
The contribution of six original songs from Emma Dean sits comfortably with the romantic costuming and staging, which fits beautifully with the tone of the text, whose lyrical nature is partnered with a striking physical interpretation. Melding these elements together and retaining a tone that is identifiably Shakespearean is a testament to dual objectives - fidelity to the text, and innovations of new work - that are fantastically realised." Mandy Kohler (Time Off)
Zen Zen Zo’s physical theatre interpretation of Shakespeare is compelling and immersive.
If you have ever wondered what physical theatre is, don’t miss the opportunity to see and experience The Tempest performed by the crew of Zen Zen Zo. It will become immediately clear that physical theatre is poetry expressed through the body because spoken words are inadequate.
Directed by Zen Zen Zo’s artistic director Lynne Bradley, The Tempest is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s last play. And while Shakespeare’s The Tempest offers a story line, it only functions as background for Zen Zen Zo’s physical performance. The plot becomes secondary to the expressive movements of the actors. As a recommendation for the audience, I would suggest that you let go of attempting to follow the narrative, and focus instead on immersing yourself into the unearthly world of spirits and sea creatures exquisitely performed by Zen Zen Zo’s cast of 21 talented actors.
Expect and welcome feelings as they surface onto your skin from this performance. While the plot of The Tempest is complicated and twisted, its appeal lays in the multiple windows that it opens into the human condition. Feel the rage of Prospero as he stomps his stick on the deck of his ship, and the devotion of Ariel as she obeys the whims of Prospero. Observe Sebastian’s aspiration to power as he conspires to kill Alonso and Gonzalo to become king. Ponder over the manipulated love story between Miranda and Ferdinand. And embrace the fear evoked by the dances of the island’s reapers.
Special mention goes to the organisation of space and of the stage. The Tempest is an immersive performance at the Holy Trinity Parish Hall. It’s best to wear comfortable clothes and shoes because you will be asked to move around, sit, stand, and interact with the actors. In the middle of the nave of the church stands a big ship which divides the space into four stages where the acting takes place. The ship in itself is spectacular: solid wood reaching up to the ceiling aided by spirals of fairy lights. Old books can be observed at the bottom of the ship, almost as an indication that there is where intellect stops and magic begins. Spectators are encouraged to move as they please to follow the changes of scene. The high ceiling of the church, coupled with coy fairy lights, creates the perfect atmosphere for the magic of The Tempest to unfold.
The actors all deserve praise for their performances, which combine avant-garde Western theatre, modern dance, and the Japanese dance theatre practice of Butoh. Live music accompanies the idiosyncratic moves of the actors and the live singing of Gina Tay Limpus and Josh Curtis.
The Tempest thrusts the spectator into a magical world of haunted creatures to reflect upon all-too-human emotions and behaviours. The setting is captivating and the performance is compelling and immersive. By the end of the show I found myself wondering whether I just dreamt all of that. But when I got home, I put my hands into the pockets of my jacket and found a small origami ship that was given to us at the end of the show. Federica Caso, Performing Arts Hub