It starts with a storm, but this wasn’t a regular tempest, as Ridley Theatre presented their own twist on Shakespeare’s final play The Tempest, with three performances held in the Mandeville Theatre.
This version of the play takes place far away from the setting of the original, an unnamed island in the Mediterranean, Ridley’s Tempest takes place in turn-of-the-century Nova Scotia. Enhancing this setting is the use of traditional maritime music and sea shanties. The play opens with a stirring rendition “Barrett’s Privateers” by Stan Rogers.
“It’s been fantastic, the kids are amazing, we’re so fortunate at Ridley to have such talent,” says Mrs. Gillian Fournier, who is volunteering her time as a director, while on maternity leave.
This Canadian connection to the show and Shakespeare, makes it more relative to our history, and the audience, according to Mr. Andrew Hitchcox, one of the shows three directors. Especially relevant are the aspects of the play tackling colonization, the arrival of the shipwrecked survivors to the island, and Prospero’s subjugation of Caliban, the island’s original inhabitant.
This production held no auditions, everyone who wanted to be involved in the play got to be a part of it. For many students it was their first experience in theatre. Only nine of the 19 cast members speak English as their first language. Cast members come from 10 different countries.
“I would never have imagined myself learning Shakespeare let alone performing it and not being terrible. I learned that even though things are new to me, I should always be open and confident in seeing myself succeed in every new challenge I face,” says Obianuju Nwadike ‘17, who plays Prospero, the play’s main antagonist.
The students took a leadership role in the production, including music, lighting. “We give them the skills to be able to do the show,” says Mrs. Anna Blagona, director and Head of English & Drama.
All of the choices and depictions of the characters were up to the student actors. This resulted in some roles being gender-swapped, including the main character of Prospero, played by Obianuju. “I enjoy my character a lot. She switches moods/feelings when conversing with other characters and It’s really exciting to explore multiple dimensions of my character,” says Obianuju.
Ridley’s Troupe 7774 is part of the International Thespian Society (ITS), which was founded in 1929. It is an honorary organization for high school and middle school theatre students located at more than 4,200 affiliated secondary schools across Canada, the United States, and abroad. The mission of ITS is to honour student achievement in the theatre arts.
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