The spirit of Shakespeare's timeless masterpiece, "The Tempest," came alive last week in an unforgettable way at Churchill Gardens as part of the Salisbury International Arts Festival. Presented by Wiltshire Creative, this immersive, outdoor, promenade adaptation seamlessly blended the old and the new, transporting the audience into a world of magic, power, and redemption.
The first thing that struck me upon entering the enchanting setting of Churchill Gardens was the sheer scale of the production. With a community chorus of over 60 members, the energy and passion were palpable from the moment I stepped foot on the grounds. The amalgamation of modern and traditional elements infused a fresh vitality into Shakespeare's words, offering a unique and captivating experience.
The collaboration between professionals and the community chorus was one of the production's greatest strengths. The sheer number of voices and bodies moving in harmony created a spectacle of its own, highlighting the importance of unity and collective effort. The community chorus members, from all walks of life, brought an authentic and diverse energy to the performance, enriching the overall experience and showcasing the power of inclusivity and collaboration.
The production's seamless integration of modern and traditional elements was a visual feast for the eyes. The fusion of contemporary attire with Elizabethan-inspired costumes created a striking and fresh aesthetic. While the set design cleverly combined the natural world with sculptures made from recycled materials (including carrier bags, old food waste and litter). By transforming discarded items into beautiful and intricate set pieces, the production emphasised the significance of sustainability and the need to rethink our relationship with the environment. The use of recycled materials served as a poignant reminder that even amidst chaos and destruction, beauty and hope can be found through conscious choices and a commitment to preserving our planet.
The ingenious integration of technology, including lighting and sound effects that were transported around on electric buggies, added an extra layer of magic and spectacle, enhancing the emotional impact of pivotal moments. This, coupled with the outdoor environment, with its natural sounds and features, further enhanced the authenticity of the production, transporting us to the island of Prospero's exile.
Throughout the promenade-style performance, we were guided through different locations within the gardens, allowing us to witness key scenes from multiple angles and explore Prospero's isle topographically. The clever use of the outdoor space and its various features made every moment feel fresh and surprising.
Wiltshire Creative's production of "The Tempest" at Churchill Gardens was a triumph. This immersive, promenade adaptation, with its fusion of traditional and original elements, captivated the audience from start to finish. The talent and dedication of the cast, the harmony of the community chorus, and the innovative use of the outdoor setting created a truly enchanting experience. Wiltshire Creative, Salisbury International Arts Festival and the community of Salisbury, can and should be proud of this production, which showcased the magic and innovation of contemporary theatre.
In Salisbury, we are incredibly privileged to have a regional producing theatre right on our doorstep - a breed of arts institution that is endangered. If you can, please do support Wiltshire Creative with this amazing contemporary Shakespeare adaptation - we would highly recommend this magical experience for all the family.
Churchill Gardens, Salisbury SP1 2HS
Wednesday 24 May – Sunday 4 June
Buy tickets here: https://bit.ly/TheTempestTicketsSalisbury
All photos credit to Ash Mills