Dynamic and captivating
By Leeor Adar
The culturally diverse Western Edge Youth Arts’ Edge Ensemble under the directorship of Dave Kelman and Tariro Mavondo delivers a spirited, vibrant and painfully accurate adaptation of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest with Caliban.
Who is Caliban in this tale?
We are not dealing with a deformed witch’s son, but a native of an island, which carries the spirit of his mother – all mothers – in the sand, air and water. The Edge Ensemble’s Caliban (Oti Willoughby) is every pure thing, every angry living thing that despises the poisons inflicted by civilisation on the natural world.
In this tale Prospero is Prospera (Natalie Lucic), and Ariel (Piper Huynh) is a machine, not spirit, that can think up realities to save the planet from global warming and other ills that contribute to the inevitable downfall of our world. But Prospera needs capital. Propera needs wealth. Prospera’s adopted daughter, Miranda (Achai Deng), is shipped off with billionaire Afghani, Ferdinand (Abraham Herasan) for a better life, a life of opulence, but little freedom and incredible isolation. It is ironically a lonely and uncertain life at the top of the world, but all is not lost.
Caliban tackles big ideas with humour and poignancy. This is a remarkable and highly physical performance delivered by an ensemble with differing physicality. The performers are excellent, emotive, funny and totally humane. So much of the story told is delivered by this troupe through their bodies, and they each deliver something unique. Credit must be given to movement director, Amy MacPherson, who has successfully conjured the best of the cast. The set design by Lara Week, who previously worked with Mavondo in Greg Ulfan’s 3 Sisters, provides yet another bright and adaptable space that works well for the performers. Turquoise cylinders serve as podiums, seats, towers, and the ever-present reminder of man-made waste.
There is at the heart of this story a great longing for a home that is being stolen by land erosion and war. On one hand our lovers, Ferdinand and Miranda, each long for their homes, Afghanistan and the Sudanese Abyei Area, each torn, each broken by the worst of human nature. On the other, Phano (Rexson Pelman) longs for a Samoa with an uncertain future, and Caliban for his island home – two examples of the fate rendered by the hands of global warming, another ongoing man-made calamity.
The tragedy of our characters is that they each seek to do well, but fail fundamentally on their quest. It is deeply Shakespearean, but simply a timeless tale of humanity. Prospera is blinded by her mind, Ferdinand by his desire for respect, and Caliban by his anger. Their undoing is deeply psychological and a result of the previous ills of man-made affliction. And so is the cycle of human nature…
Caliban will be showing for its final night tonight, November 26 at 7pm at the Coopers Malthouse Theatre. Bookings: http://malthousetheatre.com.au/whats-on/caliban
Image by Nicola Dracoulis