Sam Mendes takes his Tempest to Asia

Poster for 2010 Bridge Project

Poster for 2010 Bridge Project

The blog and Twittersphere have been abuzz about whether or not Kate Moss will be appearing in Sam Mendes’s The Tempest when it plays the Old Vic this summer.  Meanwhile, Mendes and his cast are busy touring Asia as part of an ambitious project to take Shakespeare to global audiences.

Mendes’s production of The Tempest is a part of the Bridge Project, a three-year project by Mendes, Brooklyn Academy of Music executive producer Joseph Melillo, and Old Vic Artistic Director Kevin Spacey.  As part of the project, Mendes directs two plays each year.  After doing The Winter’s Tale and The Cherry Orchard last year, this year’s incarnation is a Shakespeare double feature, with The Tempest and As You Like It.

The Bridge Project is a unique and ambitious undertaking.  The cast and crew are made of an equal number of Brits and Americans.  Each production begins at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in January and February, then embarks on a tour of Asia and Europe before winding up at the Old Vic for its summer season.

The Tempest just wrapped up a run at the Hong Kong Arts Festival and will next play the Singapore Repertory Theatre April 2-10.  Other tour stops will include Holland, France, and Greece, where it will play in the Ancient Theater at Epidaurus as part of the Athens & Epidaurus Festival.

Says Mendes of his interpretation of The Tempest:

“We brought a shaman in to rehearsals. I was very struck by the idea of the transcendent and the shamanistic notion that you can be both present and on a journey at the same time. It’s a form of meditation. It strikes me that that is what, in a way, Prospero is going through. But The Tempest is one of those plays that you can steer in any way and it can, because of its poetic simplicity, be made to mean almost anything, which is why it’s a dangerous play to do.

I guess for me at the moment The Tempest seems to be a play about an artist’s inability to control his creations, a king’s inability to control his subjects, a human’s inability to control the spirit world. It’s about everything that human beings don’t know and can never achieve.”

You can get a glimpse of Mendes’s shamanistic interpretation in this trailer:


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