Amy chats to Dan Potra the designer of The Tempest, an outdoor, site-specific reimagining of Shakespeare’s classic tale in Churchill Gardens, which is the centre piece to this years Salisbury International Arts Festival, by Wiltshire Creative.

Hi Dan, you’re designing The Tempest as part of Salisbury International Arts Festival, what can you tell us about the inspiration for the design of the show?

Tempest is one of the most produced shows on earth and its staging challenges have grown consequentially with each new production iteration. In our case, we thought that embedding it in the local landscape would certainly require a touch of the local identity being stamped all over it. We are blending the past, the present and add a timid hint of the future together with a few fresh ‘ingredients’ to tell a well-known story in a way that might offer a few theatrical surprises; hopefully these will delight the Wiltshire neighbourhoods…

The Tempest will be a walkabout production in Churchill Garden’s, how has this influenced your design? 

The weather is our biggest challenge but also is the concept of staging a complex theatre piece in a park that is still open to the rest of the community free to roam around us! We have our locations well sorted and controlled yet expect some interesting intersections of theatre and reality! 

The community will be involved in some of the making of the set, tell us a little more about that?

We are delighted to collaborate with the community and inviting ownership of the specific projects we will work together on; it will no doubt add a rich layer of creativity to the density of the overall production. By genuinely inviting creativity we are hoping for exciting developments which at this stage remain a mysterious hope for us. In other words, we are setting the ground for happy accidents or if you prefer, we are inviting serendipity …

What do you think will be the biggest challenge for you in designing this production? 

The challenge remains the overall representation of Prospero’s Island and its relation to the ‘Italian Kingdoms’. The park location could be conceived as an island and by building our sets out of ‘fly-tipping’ materials and items we certainly would like to draw attention to the plight of the oceans suffocating under the flotsam and jetsam of ‘civilisation’ . The ‘Italian’ costumes are mostly made out of ‘rubbish’ but when seen from afar they look luxurious and baroque. The twist for the audiences will come when they scrutinise them from closer proximity. 

And finally, what would you say to anyone thinking of booking to see The Tempest

I’d say come and see a version of Tempest that divests itself of the veneer of centuries and tries to speak a fresh ‘local’ language. We think of Shakespeare as a universal writer still able to communicate about the human condition to anyone alive in this world of ours but in this instance, we hope he will speak with a strong Wiltshire accent. As an audience member, we hope that you will recognise those vowels …


The Tempest is playing from the 24th of May until the 4th of June in Churchill Gardens, tickets are from £20 – find out more info about the show here!

Find out more about Salisbury International Arts Festival here!

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