This month, The Doha Players and sponsors Park House Community Initiative are proud to present The Tempest by William Shakespeare. Ahead of the production, FACT caught up with Mione Van Der Merwe who is playing the starring role of Prospero in this exciting show …
Considered one of Shakespeare ’s greatest works , this version of the comedy is inspired by the GCC region, set on a mysterious island in the Maghreb of Northwest Africa. The play follows the story of Prospero, the double-crossed Duke of Milan, who will stop at nothing to seek revenge against his enemies and restore his daughter Miranda to royal honor. Featuring singing, dancing and music, The Tempest is being directed by renowned director and former Broadway writer James Mirrione with Shakespeare expert and author Kim C Sturgess. It features a talented cast and crew from The Doha Players, whose recent performances include highly successful productions of Macbeth and Les Misérables. We learn more about the production from cast member Mione Van Der Merwe…
Hi Mione! What drew you to the role of Prospero and tell us some of the things you did to prepare to be in character?
Personally, I think Prospero is one of Shakespeare’s most interesting characters. As a protagonist he is neither entirely good, nor entirely bad. His circumstances make him relatable but, because of his flaws, he is not particularly likeable. As a ruler with unlimited power he is often dictatorial and yet he never causes anyone any real harm. He is, in short, an enigma.
When it comes to Shakespeare, everything you need to know is already in the text. I spent a great deal of time using exercises to help break down, understand, and interpret the words. I then delved into the character’s emotions, and with a lot of work, understanding, and empathy, I gradually adopted his feelings as my own. If there’s one tip that I always give to stage actors it’s: “if you don’t feel it, don’t act it. The audience can tell if you’re faking it.” It’s very important to do all of the preparation ahead of time so that when you get to showtime, the feelings can drive the play forward.
For anyone who isn’t familiar with The Tempest – why should they come and see the play?
There’s something in it for everyone: revenge plots, villains, a comedy duo, mischievous ‘sidekicks,’ power struggles, a love story, mysterious events, forgiveness and a happy ending. And as if that is not enough, there’s also music, dancing, and really good acting.
I think the regional twist will help the audience to relate to the play’s setting and some of the events that take place.
There’s going to be a regional twist on the play – how do you think audiences in Doha will react to this?
I think the regional twist will help the audience to relate to the play’s setting and some of the events that take place. I think it’s also quite refreshing as most of the plays that have been put on by us in recent years have been set in very different contexts. Ultimately, Shakespeare deals with the universal themes that make us human, such as: love, family, honour, hate, betrayal etc. By setting the play in North Africa, we are emphasising that the content of the play is still relevant today.
Tell us about your favourite line or scene from the play – why is it particularly special to you?
‘We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep’. It is such a beautiful line, with a sentiment that echoes throughout Shakespeare’s work. It is an issue that is embedded deep in the core of the human psyche, that has surfaced in many different forms of art throughout history: the tension between accepting that all of us must someday die, and realising that we don’t want to.
Just a few years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to fully understand or appreciate this quote, or Prospero’s actions. However, a series of events in recent years have sent me on a similar emotional journey to that of Prospero’s (albeit on a much smaller scale). While I didn’t take to revenge quite as readily as Prospero, I do understand his feelings and his reactions throughout the play. This particular revelation is one I’ve had to process myself in recent years.
Describe what rehearsals for The Tempest were like…
Rehearsals have been hard work, but also a lot of fun. I feel fortunate to be working with a very talented, hard working group of people. My character doesn’t sing in this show, but it is a very demanding role vocally. The biggest challenge has been preserving my voice throughout the rehearsal process. I’m really looking forward to performing this show in front of an audience for the first time. For me, it usually doesn’t feel 100% real until the character walks out in front of a room full of strangers. That’s when the character truly comes to life.
How would you describe the theatre scene in Doha and is there any room for improvement?
With very few dramatic groups in town, Doha’s residents unfortunately don’t get to see a lot of theatre. However, whenever there is a show, it usually sells out fairly quickly and is generally received really well. I think audience members and theatre practitioners alike would benefit from having access to more cultural experiences, such as stage shows.
For you, what’s the best thing about being on stage?
The adrenaline rush… It makes me feel alive. I find all forms of art to be freeing and stimulating, they all help to focus the mind and alleviate the stress that builds up on a daily basis. But when it comes to theatre, nothing else comes close. When I am fully engaged with a show, everything else falls away, and all that is left is the character, and the moment.
What is something embarrassing or unexpected that happened to you on stage?
I think every actor can recount a time when something has gone horribly wrong on stage. For me, the most memorable was over a decade ago, in a performance of Jack and the Beanstalk. The beanstalk broke and collapsed on the stage seconds before I entered with a group of villagers. But the show must go on! So everyone was scrambling for words, cracking jokes about the beanstalk, and trying not to laugh on stage.
Any advice for budding theatre actors…
Join workshops. Take classes. Accept every opportunity you get to act. Practice. Practice. Practice. It’s the only way to get better, to build up your CV, and to get your name and face out there for casting directors to see.
GO: Show dates and time are November 7, 8, 9 and 10 at 7.30pm. Tickets cost QR100, with discounts available for under 18s with a valid I.D. Visit www.q-tickets.com to buy your tickets now.