The Wokingham Paper

Set sail for South Hill Park to discover a new take on The Tempest (just don't call it woke)

The Tempest
Joe Malyan
Joe Malyan is directing The Tempest for South Hill Park

NEXT WEEK, South Hill Park is setting sail for mystery and magic, thanks to a new production of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. 

Director Joe Malyan said that he is taking a cinematic approach to the show. 

“I always find myself sighing with relief when I read a Shakespeare play as they always seems to make the most sense and the ideas for staging it come organically from the first reading,” he says. 

“This was no different with The Tempest. I read through the script and immediately knew how I wanted it to be staged, and what I wanted it to look like. 

“After speaking with my incredibly talented creative team, Victoria Spearing (Set), Anne Thomson (Costume) and Alan Valentine (Lighting), we were able to create an aesthetic which suited my directing style, but also gave a fresh approach to this famous play.”

Joe adds that he is aiming to surprise theatregoers while making the text accessible to newcomers. 

“I hope that my filmic style of staging, which bridges the gap between cinema and theatre achieves both of these. 

“Making the text accessible to a student audience is also one of the things which I strive to achieve. I like to add sections of story-telling. For example, I’ve added a moment of storytelling at the start of the production which is not specified in the text, but which I believe helps the setting of the story, and the main protagonists within it.”

Joe has chosen to change the gender of some of the characters, as he aims for a gender-balanced cast – a problem when only one of the 15 parts in The Tempest is female! 

Why did you choose to change the gender of some of the characters? 

I created an audition brief with almost every role being gender neutral. Whilst casting it was then simple to just chose the best candidate for each role. It’s not so much about making a political statement by having a female Prospero and a female Antonio, I just cast the best people for those roles,” he says. 

“It does provide a nice dynamic to change the theme of male rivalry to female, and I think it offers the actresses playing these roles to really get their teeth into roles which are otherwise very difficult to find in mainstream theatre.”

Just what can the audience expect from Joe’s Tempest? They will be watching a cinematic and fantastical production, with moments of tension as well as comedy,” he says. “They will hear a beautiful original score, sung and performed live by a chorus of singers, and a professional band, weaving its way through the plot, enhancing the story and the journeys of the characters within it. 

“They will see stunning and innovative set and costume designs, enhanced by beautiful lighting.”

The Tempest arrives at South Hill Park on Tuesday, February 4 and continues until Sunday, February 9. For more details, or to book, call the box office on 01344 484123 or log on to

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