March 31, 2010 / 11:16 AM / 9 years ago

Sam Mendes storms Asia with Shakespeare's Tempest

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes is storming Asia with a production of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” in the second year of an ambitious attempt to bring classic plays with top-end casts to a global audience.

The performance is a production of the Bridge Project, a three-year transatlantic collaboration between Mendes, the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York and The Old Vic in London, whose artistic director is actor Kevin Spacey.

“At first I thought the point was bringing British and American actors together — that is so not the point,” said Christian Camargo, who is playing spirit Ariel in “The Tempest” after appearing in the Oscar-winning movie “The Hurt Locker.”

“The point is bringing the Bridge to the different cities we are traveling to.”

The production enjoyed a sell-out run in New York and debuted in Asia at the Hong Kong Arts Festival last week, before moving on to Singapore. It will also take in six venues in Europe.

British actress Juliet Rylance, who plays Miranda in the play and is Camargo’s real-life wife, said the different cultures of the scattered venues made each stop of the tour a new experience.

“I am fascinated about seeing how this play fits in this city — every city we go to there will be something that sings,” she told a news conference in Singapore.

“Just going from New York to Hong Kong, there’s a hugely different collective feeling from the audience. It does affect us, although we don’t change anything, but the play becomes different in the way it’s affected by the audience.”

The play runs at Singapore’s Esplanade Theater April 2-10 and follows a critically acclaimed performance of “The Winter’s Tale” in the Bridge Project’s first venture into Asia last year.

Nick Schwartz-Hall, line producer at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, said the success of “The Winter’s Tale,” which starred Ethan Hawke, showed there was an audience for top quality Shakespeare in Asia.

“Ultimately what is the point to doing all this is that enough people want to come and see it, and we are back because people want to come and see it,” he said.

“The Tempest” centres on the character Prospero, played in Mendes’ production by well-known British stage actor Stephen Dillane, an exiled duke-turned-sorcerer. The play, generally considered Shakespeare’s last, mixes romance with fraternal politics and the supernatural.

Gaurav Kripalani, artistic director at Singapore Repertory Theater, said he hoped bringing such high profile events would put the city-state, which is trying to re-invent itself as a leisure destination, on the map as a center for the arts.

“I think Singapore is perfectly positioned to be a gateway into Asia for the arts,” he said.

“What I would love is to have people transiting through Singapore saying ‘I think I’m going to spend an extra night because I want to see what’s on at the theatre’. That’s our goal, it’s a long-term ambition.”

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