The Tempest is Shakespeare’s comedy about a major act of betrayal, ill treatment, the development of magic arts and a plot of revenge. Our 2023 production features Prospero played as a woman, by Alex Kingston.
Twelve years ago, Prospero was Duke of Milan. Being a lover of books, she withdrew more and more into her studies, leaving the management of the state to her brother Antonio. Eventually (with the help of Alonso, King of Naples, and Sebastian, the king’s sister) Antonio took the dukedom for himself. Prospero and her baby daughter Miranda were put to sea in a rotten boat and eventually landed on a distant island.
This island was once ruled by the witch Sycorax but is now inhabited only by her son, Caliban, and Ariel, a spirit. Since Prospero landed, she has ruled the island and its two inhabitants by using magic she learned from her studies. Her daughter Miranda has grown up seeing no human being other than her mother.
Using magic, Prospero discovers that her enemies (Antonio, Alonso and Sebastian) are sailing close to the island and sees an opportunity for revenge. She uses her powers to raise a storm which shipwrecks them. When the horrified Miranda questions this, her mother tells her the story of their arrival on the island and assures her that no real harm will come to the survivors.
The shipwrecked travellers wash up on the island and are immediately separated. At Prospero's bidding, the invisible Ariel leads them astray. Ariel leads Ferdinand, the King's son, to Prospero's cell, where he and Miranda fall instantly in love. A wary Prospero sets heavy tasks to test Ferdinand.
The King of Naples searches for his son, fearing him drowned. Sebastian, the king's sister, plots to kill him and seize the crown. The king’s drunken butler, Stephano, and jester, Trinculo, meet Caliban who persuades them to kill Prospero so they can rule the island. However, Ariel manages to make mischief between them and they are soon fighting among themselves.
Satisfied that Ferdinand has proved worthy of her daughter, Prospero presents the young couple with a wedding masque to bless their love. She is distracted from this, however, when she remembers Caliban's plot.
As Prospero's plan draws to a finish, she vows to abandon her magic. Ariel brings Alonso and his followers to Prospero's cell where she confronts her enemies as the duke of Milan and forgives them. Through the wedding of Ferdinand and Miranda, the rift between Naples and Milan is healed. Finally, Prospero grants Ariel her freedom and prepares to leave the island for Milan and her restored Dukedom.
One of the main features of our 2023 production is our female Prospero, played by actress Alex Kingston. Shakespeare wrote Prospero as a male character but changing the casting in this way creates some interesting dynamics in the play for us to explore.
- Prospero and Miranda are now a mother/daughter relationship, putting a spotlight on that maternal bond
Prospero is a ‘mother’ figure for a very unique Island Family made up of Miranda, Ariel and Caliban
- A female Prospero creates a shared female bond with the island’s environment, represented by goddesses: Ceres, Jono and Iris (named in our production as Earth, Sky and Rain)