In August 2009 Lightwork and Parrabbola – a company that makes site specific and community-based work – developed and co-presented a work-in-progress version of Shakespeare's The Tempest at the Gdansk Shakespeare Festival (which in 2009 had a multimedia theme).
The project explored the use of surveillance technology and contemporary media. The Tempest features journeying and return, confinement and release. It deals with power, observation and control. Such motifs lend themselves to the habits and technologies of contemporary surveillance, with its cameras, recording devices, monitors and tracking systems.
We took a company of five actors and a production team of ten to Gdansk for a week-long intensive workshop in the Klub Zak theatre, where we developed an hour-long 'scratch' version of the play (edited to about half its length), which we presented to audiences in three showcase performances.
We explored the notion that Prospero (himself displaced) sees and controls everything from a central location. We initially envisaged his cell as a sort of media centre, enabling him to keep everything under the sort of close and continuous surveillance that has become commonplace for many of us. We staged some scenes outside the performance space, bringing the action before the gaze of the spectators by way of the camera and the video screen / monitor. We developed extensive movement, sound and video elements.
We plan to develop the project into a full production, with a parallel programme of community creative engagement – featuring workshops prospectively looking at how people relate to new spaces where they are 'adrift', how loved ones react and relate when they can observe each other in secrecy, and how surveillance can be used not only to capture people's activities but also to provide material for spectatorship – with implications to do with voyeurism, exhibitionism, privacy, authenticity (the stuff of reality TV).