Dark clouds blotted out the sky that 22 May afternoon, looming low and ominous on the horizon. A tempest certainly seemed to be brewing to the dismay of our secondary twos, a predication that seemed doomed to come true when a smattering of rain threatened to dampen even the most buoyant of hopes. Blessedly, the skies cleared as the students trooped up the waiting buses, armed with picnic mats and all manner of assorted snacks.
An enchanting time was promised, and despite the play being not only unfamiliar, but also one of Shakespeare’s most complex and thought-provoking, the students found their evenings utterly transformed. Believed to be the last play Shakespeare wrote alone, and written in a style different from his others, The Tempest was a magical cauldron filled with mythical creatures both villainous and ethereal, family betrayals shocking enough to rival any Korean drama, and comedy that ranged from the witty to the physical.
Despite not understanding all the nuances proffered by Shakespeare’s lyrical language, the students laughed at all of Trinculo and Stephano’s ridiculous antics, shrank at Caliban’s horrifying hideousness, sympathised with Ariel’s pathetic plight, and gushed at Miranda and Ferdinand’s budding romance.
Many have interpreted Prospero’s constant allusion to theatre, especially his final exit as he renounces all magic, as Shakespeare’s oblique farewell to the stage. Yet the sight of the 2000 students from various schools packing Fort Canning Park that day showed, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Shakespeare is clearly alive and in our midst.