Director Kris Nelson marks his swansong festival at the helm of the Dublin Fringe Festival with a dizzying array of experimentation and invention. Rachel Donnelly talks with Maeve Stone, Director and co-creator of The Shitstorm.
This year, for the first time, the Abbey Theatre has partnered with the Fringe Festival to present one of the shows in the programme. It’s something of a minor revolutionary moment in Irish theatre, that the traditionally more conservative national theatre will co-produce a play from Dublin’s younger and more raucous festival of experimental performance. The play is a modern ‘riff’ on Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
Director and co-creator Maeve Stone, who conceived the idea, was interested in what happens after The Tempest – when island-dwelling self-taught magician Prospero abdicates his powers by turfing all of his magic books into the ocean and returns to Milan with his island family. In her version, The Shitstorm, Stone has placed four of the main characters from the original play back on the island ten years later. It turns out they never left when they were supposed to, Prospero having realised what a sweet deal it was being in charge of your own island with your biddable daughter (Miranda), a magical spirit (Ariel) and a savage (Caliban) at your beck and call. Stone’s particular interest in the play began with Miranda.
“One of the things I was most curious about was what would happen if you took a tiny female character from a Shakespearean text and give them more space for agency. I wanted to reposition a redacted female voice, wake her up from the sleep that Prospero has kept her in for the last 400 years and hear what she has to say.”
In trawling through the original text, Stone found that Miranda has around seventy lines in total, and most of these are response lines, meaning she originates very little of the dialogue. In a particularly Irish interpretation, Stone and writer of the script Simon Doyle have placed the action in West Kerry.
“If we translate Prospero into a real life situation and he’s a person who’s gotten all his strength and power from books, the natural translation for that would be he’s a powerful writer, so I quite liked the that, in a naturalistic context, he would be a writer who’s fallen from grace in some way, lost his status, like some people who fuck off to Kerry or West Cork and live out the rest of their days on the land. It’s a rejection of society at some level.”
The tension in the play comes from Miranda trying to find her own voice, after having grown up in a bubble world totally controlled by her father. The Tempest being one of Shakespeare’s most musical plays, she does this through learning an instrument and starting a band.
“One of the most important elements is musical experimentation and integrating music into the work in a really fundamental way. Miranda’s been in this context that has one form of language, one idea of what is good, very much Prospero’s territory. He’s like a canonical power. And so she’s interested in finding a new sound. One of the big ideas in this play is that this new storm, the shitstorm, isn’t a storm that Prospero has conjured – it comes from Miranda.”
The Shitstorm is on the Peacock Stage at the Abbey Theatre. It runs Friday September 8th (preview, €11), Saturday September 9th and from Monday 11th to Saturday 16th at 9pm. €14/€16
You can find full festival details at fringefest.com
Words: Rachel Donnelly