Rating : 5 stars

Review: The Tempest, Trinity Parish Hall (QLD)

Zen Zen Zo’s physical theatre interpretation of Shakespeare is compelling and immersive.
Review: The Tempest, Trinity Parish Hall (QLD)

The action takes place at the Trinity Parish Hall. Photo: Simon Woods.

If you have ever wondered what physical theatre is, don’t miss the opportunity to see and experience The Tempest performed by the crew of Zen Zen Zo. It will become immediately clear that physical theatre is poetry expressed through the body because spoken words are inadequate.

Directed by Zen Zen Zo’s artistic director Lynne Bradley, The Tempest is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s last play. And while Shakespeare’s The Tempest offers a story line, it only functions as background for Zen Zen Zo’s physical performance. The plot becomes secondary to the expressive movements of the actors. As a recommendation for the audience, I would suggest that you let go of attempting to follow the narrative, and focus instead on immersing yourself into the unearthly world of spirits and sea creatures exquisitely performed by Zen Zen Zo’s cast of 21 talented actors.


Expect and welcome feelings as they surface onto your skin from this performance. While the plot of The Tempest is complicated and twisted, its appeal lays in the multiple windows that it opens into the human condition. Feel the rage of Prospero as he stomps his stick on the deck of his ship, and the devotion of Ariel as she obeys the whims of Prospero. Observe Sebastian’s aspiration to power as he conspires to kill Alonso and Gonzalo to become king. Ponder over the manipulated love story between Miranda and Ferdinand. And embrace the fear evoked by the dances of the island’s reapers.  

Special mention goes to the organisation of space and of the stage. The Tempest is an immersive performance at the Holy Trinity Parish Hall. It’s best to wear comfortable clothes and shoes because you will be asked to move around, sit, stand, and interact with the actors. In the middle of the nave of the church stands a big ship which divides the space into four stages where the acting takes place. The ship in itself is spectacular: solid wood reaching up to the ceiling aided by spirals of fairy lights. Old books can be observed at the bottom of the ship, almost as an indication that there is where intellect stops and magic begins. Spectators are encouraged to move as they please to follow the changes of scene. The high ceiling of the church, coupled with coy fairy lights, creates the perfect atmosphere for the magic of The Tempest to unfold. 

The actors all deserve praise for their performances, which combine avant-garde Western theatre, modern dance, and the Japanese dance theatre practice of Butoh. Live music accompanies the idiosyncratic moves of the actors and the live singing of Gina Tay Limpus and Josh Curtis.

The Tempest thrusts the spectator into a magical world of haunted creatures to reflect upon all-too-human emotions and behaviours. The setting is captivating and the performance is compelling and immersive. By the end of the show I found myself wondering whether I just dreamt all of that. But when I got home, I put my hands into the pockets of my jacket and found a small origami ship that was given to us at the end of the show.

5 stars out of 5 ★★★★★

The Tempest
presented by Zen Zen Zo
Director: Lynne Bradley
Producer: Nicole Reilly
Assistant Director: Gina Tay Limpus
Assistant Producer: Lauren Story
Musical Directors: Josh Curtis & Wayne Jennings
Lighting Designer: Simon Woods
Set Designers: Drew Der Kinderen & Ben Adams
Costumier: Kaye Gannaway
Composers: Emma Dean, Colin Webber, Josh Curtis & Siobhan Gibbs
Cast: Wayne Jennings as Prospero and Josh Curtis and Gina Tay Limpus as Ariel with Travis Wesley, Maja Liwszyc, Luke Davis, Ben Adams, Siobhan Gibbs, Ross Miller, Heidi Harrison, Georgia Politakis, Lauren Story, Sho Webber, Jazz Zhao, Melissa Budd, Amy Cooker, Grace Keane-Jones, Liam Linane, Joshua McLean, Nicholas Mohr and Kai Woods
15-31 August 2019
Trinity Parish Hall, Fortitude Valley QLD
Tickets $30-$50

Federica Caso

Tuesday 27 August, 2019

About the author

Federica Caso is a political analyst and writer. She has recently completed her PhD in International Politics at the University of Queensland. Her research focuses on the politics of aesthetics and art. She is interested in how art and culture are co-opted in systems of power and domination, and used as instruments of political resistance. She has written, hosted events, and facilitated discussions about the politics of aesthetics. She is a board member of House Conspiracy, an art centre located in West End, Brisbane.