Storm brews over harbour island

Last updated 15:02 18/01/2013
The Tempest
Ghostly Presence: Ariel, played by Erin Howell, is one of the spirits who will be in A Tempest off Somes Island.

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Spirits will guide theatre goers through the stuff dreams are made of on Somes Island next month for Bard Productions' adaptation of Shakespeare's The Tempest.

Audiences will be ferried out to Somes Island and guided through the maze-like interior of the Animal Quarantine Station in the production company's third adventure-theatre production.

Director Paul Stephanus said he hoped to offer something more than the traditional theatre experience.

"There's no set that can recreate the experience of being on a boat or walking through a dark forest," he said.

The show will start the moment the audience boards the boat and continues until the ferry docks again at Queens Wharf.

Boat revellers speak in modern language while the spirits of Somes Island stick closer to the original script, giving the impression of Shakespearean language as the local dialect of Somes Island.

Stephanus said the timing of the play was carefully considered with the audience to depart the Wellington waterfront just before dusk.

"As the play gets darker and more intense, the night will get darker."

This is not the first time Bard Productions has taken Wellingtonians out of their padded theatre seats.

In a 2009 adaptation of Greek theatre classic The Frogs, the depths below the Wellington waterfront were transformed into Hades.

Actors steered paddle boats carrying audience members through the murky setting.

Two years later, Quarantine drew on the history of Somes Island, where more than 40 people were thought to have died when it was a quarantine station.

Theatregoers were herded out to Somes Island after being informed by actors that they were carrying an infectious disease.

Following on from this play, Bard Productions was commissioned by the Otago Festival of the Arts to create a play for Quarantine Island, just off the coast of Dunedin.

Stephanus said a rendition of Waiting for Godot using prisoners as cast members was also on the cards.

A Tempest Off Somes Island, February 7 till 9, and 14 till 16. Ferry departs Queens Wharf at 7.20pm and returns at 10pm. Tickets $36 (including ferry).

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- The Wellingtonian

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