The Tempest in St John on the Wall's Crypt
6th - 24th December, 2017
“Be not afeard…the isle is full of noises…”
This winter, ‘Site Specific Theatre Masters’ (Bristol 24/7) Insane Root return to breathe new life into Shakespeare’s epic tale of magic, vengeance and redemption. Hidden within the medieval walls of Bristol lies a magician’s library, full of old tales and forgotten secrets.
Join its owner, the legendary Prospero, as music and memory transport him back to the island of his banishment. Here he must relive old rivalries, confront lost love and discover again what it means to be Master of the Elements.
The Tempest in St John on the Wall’s Crypt is a genre-defying production, featuring a cast of four, the company’s hallmark live acapella harmonies, candle-lit surroundings and an imaginative adaptation of the original text.
This is a chamber piece and the audience will be sat on benches throughout. Unfortunately this venue does not have wheelchair access but we can accommodate some mobility issues. Heels are not permitted in the space. The crypt can get very chilly so warm layers are advised.
Running time: approx 60 minutes.
Unsuitable for children under the age of 12. Babes-in-arms not permitted. Regretfully, due to the nature of the performance, no latecomers may be permitted. There is also no re-admittance should you need to leave mid-show.
Norma Butikofer - Singer / Miranda / Trinculo / Alonso / Gonzalo
Helen Cockill - Singer / Sebastian / Caliban
Chris Donnelly - Prospero
Ellie Showering - Singer / Antonio / Stephano / Ariel
Peter Clifford - Magic Director
Hannah Drake - Director / Adapter
Rozie Jackson - Puppetry Advisor
James Lisk - Stage Manager
Edmund McKay - Lighting Designer
Justin Palmer - Producer / Production Manager / Adapter
Ellie Showering - Musical Director / Composer / Adapter
Sarah Warren - Designer
Rehearsal & Production Photography by Craig Fuller
Publicity Photography by Hannah Drake
BEHIND THE SCENES : The Making of a Musical Tempest
Interview taken from Bristol 24/7 preview of 22/11/17
You’ve chosen “to retell the story through the character of Prospero, years after the events of the play itself.” Why?
Hannah: I have always found the idea of Prospero returning home to Milan (as he does at the end of the original play) such a fascinating one – how does it actually feel for a magician of immense power to give it all up, and send away his daughter and companion of 12 years to return to his home and – as he claims – spend most of his time thinking about the end of his life? He is such a mercurial and vital character, with amazing changes of temper and a need to be heard, obeyed and served. What is it like for someone like that to finally come home? What are the internal tempests that you might bring with you when you get back? These were all starting points, and inspired by the Crypt itself: a place of mortality, memory and reflection.
The challenge then, of course, is to make it make sense, so we set ourselves the framework and then have built a retelling of the play using only Shakespeare’s original text and a company of four performers: Prospero and three singers.
Justin: As with all our previous shows, we set out to create something that allows us to place a large magnifying glass over a leading character in order to examine them intimately. Our version of ‘The Tempest’ therefore plays with the idea of Prospero’s version of events, his regrets, his worries, his triumphs. A character study with music!
Hannah: And with that in mind, pretty much every character you’d meet in a traditional performance still features, although some parts are amplified and others perhaps only referenced depending on the enduring impact they had on Prospero.
Tell us about the role of music in your Tempest.
Hannah: Much of the format for this production was inspired by an idea that Ellie Showering, our musical director, had about retelling the story of The Tempest entirely with music – to give a sense of the narrative, places and characters through soundscape. The original play is so musical, and the magical elements bound up with music, so this production aims to celebrate that.
The cast features three singer-performers, whose role is part-spirit, part-memory, part-chorus. In some ways they are a tribute to the spirits that Prospero encountered on the Island, in others they are part of his own thoughts. Anyone who has seen our previous work will have experienced the style of acapella music that Ellie composes – it’s tight, complex, harmony-driven and surprising! We’re really excited to have a production that uses it as the basis of its storytelling.
Ellie: The lyrics in our show are all taken from the text but do not include the original songs that were intended to be included (Full Fathom Five, Where the Bee Sucks, etcetera). I find that someone needs to creatively connect with words in order to successfully put them to music: so we took a different approach by finding ours in the speech and creating new poems from the text, which were then set to music. The idea of presenting Shakespeare’s most musical play without the traditional songs is very exciting!
Justin: Music has been such an integral part of Insane Root to date. There was a huge demand for soundtracks to our previous shows, especially Orpheus and Eurydice, so we’re working on recording this show so that people can take a slice of the production home with them.
After your memorable productions in Redcliffe Caves and the Suspension Bridge Vaults, tell us about how – and why – you secured St John on the Wall this time.
Hannah: After the success of Orpheus, we had originally started work on a full-scale Henry V but sadly the venue fell through. With a pretty big project planned for 2018 (watch this space!), Justin and I agreed that a small-scale production was probably the way to go for this winter, so we starting tossing various ideas around. I actually joked about the idea of doing ‘carols in a crypt’, which reminded Justin of St John on the Wall’s beautiful underground space.
Being in the crypt felt a bit magical, especially the way the acoustic works, so we decided we wanted to do something a bit more inventive than a carol concert – but still very musical. Ellie then suggested her idea of The Tempest, which inspired the idea of the crypt being Prospero’s library, which became the starting point for retelling the story in this new and unusual way.
As with our previous work, we didn’t want to put something into the space just for the sake of it – by putting this version of The Tempest into the crypt we think it will unlock something unique about the play and give our audiences a fresh slant on the character of Prospero.
How immersive and walkabout have you made this production?
Hannah: The nature of the venue makes this production a chamber piece – we will be inviting the audience to essentially become part of the furniture of Prospero’s library: placing them all around the space. Prospero is characterised by being enclosed – even on the Island he had his own cell, and the Island itself was effectively a prison. In this production, the audience will become part of his new “prison” although we don’t expect the audience to participate in the actual performance!
The acoustic also has some exciting quirks depending on where the singers direct their voices, and the idea is that the audience experience the music as Prospero experiences memory – distant, up-close and epic.
The Tempest seems to stand slightly apart from the rest of Shakespeare’s work in some ways. Wikipedia: “Critics see [it] as explicitly concerned with its own nature as a play, frequently drawing links between Prospero’s “art” and theatrical illusion, and early critics saw Prospero as a representation of Shakespeare”. Any significance for you here?
Justin: The fact that Shakespeare wrote this play towards the end of his theatrical career is an interesting aspect for us, as we’re choosing to focus on the end of Prospero’s life. Big themes in our version, touched on in the famous ‘Our revels now are ended…’ speech, are ageing and mortality – another reason for the Crypt location. Perhaps Shakespeare felt – like the Prospero in our version – that he was losing his artistic powers as he reached old age? Apparently it was the last play he wrote alone. Whether this was due to a waning mind or a coincidental push to collaborate with other writers we do not know!
Hannah: The plot of The Tempest is actually incredibly simple compared with many of Shakespeare’s other plays. It’s also much more philosophical, and defies categorisation – is it a tragedy? A comedy? A romance? It seems to have a happy ending (spoiler), so presumably it’s a comedy, but it doesn’t really feel like one when you’re watching or reading it. So we’ve certainly taken that fluidity and philosophical influence in the making of this production, but our version is definitely not neoclassical in structure.
Ellie: These are all things that we have discovered since we started adapting the play, but were not at the forefront of why we chose to do it. The imagery in the language lends itself to something more complex than the original story and I think that was one of the main reasons for picking it.
Singer / Miranda / Trinculo / Alonso / Gonzalo
Training: Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (MA Acting 2013)
Previous credits include: Retreat, Little Pieces of Gold; Southwark Playhouse (2017); Once Again to Zelda; Old Red Lion Theatre (2017); Glamfuckery; Camden People's Theatre, The Bikeshed Theatre, Theatre Delicatessen (2016); Crude Prospects and Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone; The VAULTS Festival (2016 and 2015); Confessional, The Miniaturists; Arcola Theatre (2014); Tartuffe; The Space Theatre (2014).
Norma is a London based Actor/Singer, and is thrilled and grateful to be working with such a creative and innovative company. She has loved every moment of the magic. Many thanks to the Insane Root family for including her on this exciting journey!
Singer / Sebastian / Caliban
Since graduating with a BA Hons in Drama from Aberystwyth University in 2007, Helen’s professional singing credits include: HUG (Verity Standen, UK and international tours); Undersong (Verity Standen, research & development); Airborne (Verity Standen); Party (Aldous Harding, backing vocals); Mouthpiece (Jen Bell) and Temple Songs (Jen Bell). Other projects with Bristol-based composer Jen Bell as part of the Nightbus Choir include Night Tripper (Inbetween Time); Gymnast (Bodies in Flight); The Events (David Grieg) and Bread and Butter (Jen Bell).
As part of the 2014 celebrations of the twinning between Bristol and Georgia’s capitol, Tbilisi, Helen performed with the Bristol Georgian Choir, Borjghali, for the Georgian Prime Minister and at the British Embassy in Tbilisi. Helen also enjoys singing with various community choirs and groups in Bristol.
Director / Adapter
Chris recently played Peter Waites and Barry Hardwick in the new play Darkness Darkness at the Nottingham Playhouse, having just returned from a six month tour of America, where he performed the role of Bottom in a critically acclaimed production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He has enjoyed working with that company on previous tours, playing Feste in Twelfth Night and the title role in Macbeth.
Chris has also had the pleasure of being part of the highly acclaimed, award winning Shakespeare At The Tobacco Factory theatre company ensemble since its inception in 2000, enjoying such roles Launce (Two Gentlemen of Verona), Bottom (MSND), Stephano (The Tempest), Iago (Othello), Autolycus in (The Winter’s Tale), Pompey
(Measure For Measure), Tranio, (Taming of the Shrew), Puck (MSND, Lollio (The Changeling) and Diomedes, (Troilus and Cressida).
He has also worked extensively in London, regional repertory theatres and full scale tours, playing roles including Horst in Bent, (nominated for an Evening Standard award for best actor), Skullery (Road), Billy (Billy Liar), Tony (Abiail’s Party), Coleman (Lullabies of Broadmoor), Richard (The Country), Hardy (The Edge of Darkness).
Chris’ TV credits, include No Offence, The Muskateers, Derren Brown – Faith & Fear, Vital Signs, Fat Friends, Silent Witness, Prime Suspect, Reckless, The Verdict, Wire In The Blood, Wycliffe, Drop The Dead Donkey, Casualty, Doctors and the character of Damion Spinks in Eastenders.
Rozie is a puppeteer, performer and maker and member of mask theatre troupe HunkyPunk. She has worked for LAMA Creative, Working Space, WH Smith, Living Structures and Rose theatre company.
Edmund Mckay studied theatre design at Aberystwyth University & Central School of Speech & Drama.
His past work in theatre & opera includes: Reservoir Cats (Wardrobe Theatre), Orpheus and Eurydice (Insane Root), Rocky A Horror Show (Wardrobe theatre), Macbeth (Insane Root), The Room Upstairs (Theatre West), Stomping on Shadows (Theatre West), Dogtag (Theatre West), Hotel Opera (Fellswoop) The Suicide, The Commune, As You Like It, Broken Heart, Lear, Three Sisters, Anthony & Cleopatra (all for CSSD); All's Well That Ends Well & Revenger's Tragedy (Gentleman Jack Theatre); Beachy Head (Analogue); The Carnival (Kompany Malakhi & Charody Productions).
Past work in dance includes: Sometimes There is Light, Sometimes There Is Dark (Moving Dust) The World Behind Walls (Jessie Brett & Addisu Demissie); How I Faded And Disintegrated (Saun Taun John); Co lighting for shows Gig & The Factory (Earthfall Dance company). Previous installations include Isolated Response (Net Audio Festival 2009) & Built to Last (Chapter Studio 2011).
Sarah Warren graduated from The Bristol Old Vic Theatre School In July 2011 after completing an MA in Theatre Design as an award winning student. Prior to this she studied fine art and became involved in film and theatre when she worked as a set builder, painter and model maker on the “Wallace and Gromit” feature film “Curse of The Were-Rabbit” and then as the props maker for The Bristol Old Vic.
Since graduating in 2011 she has designed the sets and costumes for several theatre productions including shows for The SanaRt Theatre Company, community based theatre and film for Theatre Orchard, costume design for the feature film Frail and set and costume design for The Rover staged at The Bristol Old Vic Studio.
She has also assisted Angela Davies on A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum at The Tobacco Factory and also on The Mouse and His Child at The RSC December 2012.
Hannah is a founding member of Insane Root and has recently worked as Resident Director for the National Theatre on its UK tour of Jane Eyre. She trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, where she won the Elsa Roberts Prize for Directing.
Recent Directing credits include: Orpheus & Eurydice in the Suspension Bridge Vaults (Insane Root), The Room Upstairs (Theatre West), Macbeth in the Redcliffe Caves 2015 & 16 (Insane Root), The Ruff Guide to Shakespeare & Julius Caesar (Take Thou That), The Snow Maiden (BS13 Company), Canopy of Stars (Theatre West), Lockdown (Bath Theatre Royal), 100 Miles North of Timbuktu / A Lonely Place (Theatre West), East of the Sun, West of the Moon (Homespun), An Act of Twisting (Provocation), Product Displacement (Edible), Convicts, Conflict & Love (Bolton Octagon), Fertility Objects (Butterfly Psyche).
Hannah is a regular Visiting Director for the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, and has directed for both the University of Cumbria and Bath Spa University.
Composer / Singer / Ariel / Antonio / Stephano
Ellie is a Bristol based singer, performer and composer who specialises in a capella and music in a theatrical context. Since graduating from Dartington College of Arts in 2009 with a degree in
Contemporary Music Performance, her collaborative work has ranged from intimate shows designed for an audience of one to sold out theatre tours across the UK and Europe. Looking to push the limitations of the human voice, she actively seeks out challenging and engaging vocal and performance work.
Singing credits include: HUG (UK and international tours), MmmHmmm, Symphony, Undersong and Airborne (all Verity Standen), A Very British Bird Show (Conker Group), Insane Root at the Underglobe (Insane Root), Bread and Butter (Jen Bell), Interlude (Jenny Minton), 16 Singers (Kitty Morley), Out of Water (Catherine Wright/Helen Paris/Jocelyn Pook), How Lucky (Soundtrack – Freya Billington), Bristol Green Capitol Opening Ceremony (Cirque Bijou/Dom Coyote).
Composer credits include: Orpheus & Eurydice, Macbeth and Insane Root at the Underglobe (Insane Root), A Very British Bird Show (Conker Group), Lovely Ugly City (Jo Tyabji).
Ellie is also the Musical Director for Insane Root Theatre Company
Justin is a founding member of Insane Root. He trained as an actor at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama and the University of Bristol. He has worked extensively across the UK in theatre, film, TV and voiceover, and is an Associate Director of critically acclaimed Gentleman Jack Theatre.
Stage includes: Infectious (Welded Theatre), Twelfth Night (Rondo), Three Ships (Theatre West), All’s Well That Ends Well, The Revenger’s Tragedy & Timon of Athens (all Gentleman Jack), Converging Paths (Slung Low), Fertility Objects (Butterfly Psyche), After Dark (Bike Shed), 24 Hour Plays (Theatre Royal Bath), Mapping the City (Slung Low/Hull Truck), Drive in Deco (Part Exchange), The Mourning Few (Miniaturists/Arcola), 86,400 Seconds (FTC), Beyond the Front Line (Slung Low/Lowry), Romeo and Juliet (Bristol Old Vic).
TV includes: Daniel Morgan (CH4), Trollied (Sky One), Crimewatch (BBC).
Our immense thanks go to the amazing friends and family who helped bring this production to life and kept it going in performance. Additionally, and specifically, we would like to thank:
Bristol Old Vic Theatre School
Travelling Light Theatre Company
Kathryn & Tom Raftery
Ed and the team of CCT and St John on the Wall
Mike and his team at the Strawberry Thief
RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT