Theatre legend and OBE Braham Murray will be directing this year’s SRT Shakespeare in the Park performance: The Tempest at Fort Canning. Murray was one of five founding Artistic Directors of the highly acclaimed Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. He was also the longest serving founder, starting in 1976 and retiring in 2012. The Royal Exchange has always had a reputation for working with young actors before they attained fame. Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, David Tennant, Michael Sheen and Andrew Garfield all appeared at the Royal Exchange before starring in film and television roles.
With over 100 works under his belt, Braham looks forward to The Tempest coming to Singapore and speaks to The Muse about why casting is 85% of the job.
“Over the years teachers have told me that when their students have seen a really good production of Shakespeare it makes the task of teaching them so much easier because it clears away the inhibition that pupils tend to feel when confronted with great classics.”
You have directed over 80 productions through your career! What makes Shakespeare productions unique compared to other ‘newer’ works?
Over 100 but who’s counting! Quite simply, Shakespeare is the greatest writer ever because he combines a profound understanding of human beings and their psyches and a wonderful theatricality which means great entertainment.
Can you tell us about your vision for SRT’s The Tempest?
This is a magical play which speaks of a human being confronting himself and expressing this through music, dance, comedy, poetry, sounds and drama. It is like any great fairy tale which has a serious message and will be directed as such.
Is there anything specific which sets The Tempest apart from other Shakespeare works?
It is his last play and the only one that he wrote from scratch rather than basing it on already written stories.
“It is, as it were, his last will and testament and his ultimate view of what life is.”
The cast is an eclectic mix of ethnicities and nationalities, could you tell us about the process of selecting the right cast for this production? What are the factors which make a great cast come together?
Casting is 85% of the job. You choose actors who have, for free, the embodiment of the character and the talent to extend their natural connection. You also choose people who you know will get on together and create a great rehearsal atmosphere. The Tempest, with its unique cast list, cries out for precisely that mix of nationalities that I have chosen for this production. It combines some fine English actors who I have worked with over the years with the exciting young Singapore players.
Are there any challenges associated with bringing the play to Asia?
The challenge, or rather the excitement, is to use the spiritual and ethnic Asian cultures and religions to make the play visually directly pertinent to the audience.
Why do Shakespeare’s works keep getting a renewed lease on life in countries that have not traditionally followed them?
Any good production of Shakespeare will introduce the audience to his wisdom and timelessness.
What can Drama students gain from watching this version of The Tempest?
Simply that, if it’s any good, it will help them understand the best approach to acting Shakespeare.