Kate Stafford’s vision of THE TEMPEST (interview)
Kate Stafford interviewed by Amy Bonsall 11.09.2017
The idea behind choosing THE TEMPEST for our work…we work interculturally between Malawi, and the UK, and the idea behind doing THE TEMPEST was that it does have many themes. The themes between fathers and daughters and the various other themes, but one of the themes is colonialism. The idea was to cast the people who were shipwrecked – Prospero and Miranda –as English/British, and the original inhabitants of the island as Malawian. I deliberately wanted it to be a multi-ethnic casting in terms of the Brits (British) so that it was about colonialism, not about race.
We have done colour-blind casting for them but what they have in common is that they are British and different culturally to the Malawians who are on the island. We used an island that is in Lake Malawi, called Likoma Island, as the inspiration for the design because it’s quite a magical place. When you’re there you really are cut off from everything and anything could happen. It feels like there are spirits all around the island and so that inspired us and seemed like the perfect place to set our scene.
I chose my two Ariels, Robert Magassa and Joshua Bhima, because I know them as dancers and actors in Malawi. They do a lot of choreography of their own and work in shows together, and so they interact as one. My idea really was that I wanted Ariel to be magical and other-worldly and if I used two people they could be sometimes one and sometimes two, splitting and joining, which is something they say in one of their first speeches when they were ‘flaming distinctly’ then ‘meeting’ and ‘parting and joining’. That was the inspiration behind having those two who could sometimes speak together, sometimes apart. Then there’s that ‘now you see me now you don’t’ magic of this spirit/person.
Also I thought that if they use music, and there is lots of music in Shakespeare’s play, I could take it one step forwards to make it into dance. They have music and the dance. So they are very different from the British characters who come very much from their own language, their own intellect and their own headspace. They’re very academic, whereas the Ariels are earthy. They are of the island. They are sprits of the island and their movement is completely undivided from what they say.