Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Daniel Winder: The Tempest

By | Published on Sunday 17 June 2018

It’s Shakespeare’s final play, and it’s a widely admired favourite of avid theatre-goers and literary types alike. And this upcoming London production of ‘The Tempest’, like all the work of Iris Theatre, will be staged in a brilliant location – the exterior of St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden, aka The Actors’ Church.

I spoke to the show’s director, Iris Theatre founder Daniel Winder, to find out more, about him, and his production.

CM: Everyone knows what ‘The Tempest’ is about, don’t they….? But you know, just in case they don’t all, can you offer a quick rundown of the plot?
DW: A terrible storm at sea shipwrecks the King of Naples and his court upon a strange and magical island. Unknown to them it is home to a powerful magician Prospero; the former Duke of Milan, who they cast out from his city years ago. Prospero is their sworn enemy. Scattering the survivors of the wreck in groups across the island, he sends his magical spirit Ariel to torment and confuse them. Prospero’s magical powers are immense and his rage is terrible. It seems their punishment will be severe.

However, the King’s son Ferdinand, who has been separated from the rest of the court, then meets Prospero’s daughter, Miranda. She has been living alone on the island all her life with just her father, and their servant, Caliban, for company. At first sight Miranda and Ferdinand fall in love. Prospero now has a choice, to enact his terrible revenge, or to turn away from his dark magic and seek reconciliation and forgiveness.

CM: What made you want to stage this particular play just now? And what do you like about it?
DW: The play is a meditation on power, vengeance and forgiveness. Our world seems particularly full of violent and divisive discourse at the moment. This story, centred as it is a powerful man who evolves from the brutal application of raw power to true wisdom, should be required viewing for many of our political leaders.

There is a simpler reason as well, and that is that it is a fun, joyful and redemptive play that leaves the viewer with hope in their heart. We could all do with a bit of that nowadays.

CM: How would you describe your approach to the text? Is it a traditional presentation?
DW: This is Shakespeare’s last full play and he is at the height of his powers. The text is sparse and beautiful. Every line sparkles like a diamond. My approach to the text is to really revel in the wonder of it. Particularly this play. There is nothing ‘traditional’ about my approach to anything!

CM: Does the outdoors staging also affect the way you approach the piece?
DW: Not only the outdoor nature, but the movement from stage to stage, and the beauty of our particular location, are central to our approach to this play. St. Paul’s Church was designed by Inigo Jones – the greatest theatre designer of 17th Century Court Masques. We are attempting in the way we stage this production to include some of the wonder, spectacle and magic of these special evenings. There will be music, dance, real magic and spectacle to hopefully compliment and expand upon the vision of the play. We are inviting our audience to join us for a party at the end of the world. It will be a sparkling evening of fun, laughter and wonder.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about your cast?
DW: We have a superb cast of seven who work their socks off playing multiple parts to bring this story to life. It is unfair perhaps to pick one person out but Jamie Newall leads the whole endeavour as an imperious but deeply flawed Prospero. I can’t wait for you to see the performance. A little extra mention is due for Charlotte Christensen as well who sings, plays, dance and acts her way through the whole show as the most multifaceted of Ariels you are ever likely to see and hear.

CM: Can you tell us about Iris Theatre? What led to you setting up the company? What are your aims and ambitions for it?
DW: Iris Theatre was founded in 2006 to produce one play, ‘Murder in the Cathedral’. Like all theatre makers, Iris was created initially to allow me to try my hand at creating theatre. Over the years it has become a thriving home for hundreds of artists who have all worked along with me to create fabulous art that has entertained tens of thousands of people in a truly unique location. My ambition for the next ten years for the company is that, while maintaining our home in Covent Garden, we grow beyond this one location to bring our approach to new exciting space. This expansion has begun already this year with ‘H.R.Haitch’ at the Union Theatre and my production of ‘Arabian Nights’ at Hoxton Hall in September.

CM: Iris Theatre has been going for over a decade, I think – what have been your highlights from that period?
DW: Highlights are many and numerous. The two productions of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ spring to mind – my first staged adaptations as a writer. Last year’s wonderful ‘Macbeth’ – the culmination of a long working collaboration with the actor David Baynes. My post-apocalyptic ‘Julius Caesar’. ‘H.R.Hatich’ – my first fully staged musical. The biggest highlight though really is the sense of family and community that we have been able to build over those ten years, among previous performers, crew, volunteers and audience. It really does feel like a unique and special treasure.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about your work in Austria, and how that came about?
DW: From 2006 – 2010 I went to Styria in Southern Austria to direct a sequence of Shakespeare plays in the courtyard of an extraordinary medieval castle. The project was founded by a wonderful English ex-patriot called Nicholas Allen, and I first went as an actor for ‘The Tempest’ in 2006. The season was partially funded by the European Union and brought young actors from across Europe together to stage a full-length production of Shakespeare’s finest plays. In just 12 days we would rehearse and construct everything. Then perform to an enthralled cast of Austrian locals, for whom many it was the first time they had seen a play in English. Though exhausting, I look back on my time leading the project artistically with great fondness. I shall forever associate the Styrian Alps with my production of ‘King Lear’, when real electric storms, graced our final performances of that miraculous play.

CM: What’s coming up next for you, after this?
DW: We have ‘The Three Musketeers’ in Covent Garden in August for which I am writing the adaptation and Paul-Ryan Carberry is writing the script. It’s going to be a sweeping swashbuckling adventure. Then, even more excitingly for me personally, in September I am directing a puppet-filled, sumptuous new staging of the ‘Arabian Nights’ at Hoxton Hall. I hope to see you, Ali Baba, Sindbad, and a host of other heroes there.


‘The Tempest’ is on at St. Paul’s Church, Covent Garden from 20 Jun-28 Jul, see this page here for info and to book.

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