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A Tempest in a tea cup

YOUNG THESPIAN: Zephryn Taitte

TEMPEST DIRECTED by Rob Curry and Anthony Fletcher is a new docu-drama that follows the progress of a group of 17 teenagers from south London as they grapple with Shakespeare's enigmatic final play of magic and manipulation.

The film, which will be used in schools as an educational tool, shows the young actor’s progression from the rehearsal period all the way through to their final costumed performance.

Interspersed throughout the movie the cast talk about their backgrounds and how they came to be a part of the production, despite (in some cases) a rough start in life and challenging surroundings.

In watching the various accounts from the cast it becomes apparent that acting and especially period dramas of this kind lack the representation of young black people, as well as those from inner city backgrounds.

Maybe that is why the main actor Zephryn Taitte initially found performing the Tempest difficult.
“I was out of my comfort zone,” said the 26-year-old.

“I’d done Romeo and Juliet before, but I’d never taken a character in a prestigious play like the Tempest, which is so intricate and multifaceted with so many different proverbs in it.”

Taitte, who plays Prospero, studied performing arts at Croydon College before joining the youth arts group at Oval House Theatre, but as the film reveals, the London-born actor persevered; “I’m always rubbish at the beginning. Give me a script and I’ll massacre the whole play in the first week of rehearsals. My worst moments are the primary stages of the play, but the best part was the challenge.”

Taitte is particularly vocal on the apparent gap between the streets and the screen.

“In the adolescent African-Caribbean community what is missing is that they are not seeing a representation of themselves in the 1800s. We’ve had presence in the UK from the 17th century with the moors, and other prominent figures but it’s not highlighted so you’re not going to find any interest from young black people because they feel they don’t have a part in that society.”

The artist believes a different approach is needed to attract a more diverse group of people to the roles that are traditionally seen as ‘white’.

According to Taitte, “When you look at Shakespeare now; you’re not seeing people from a range of backgrounds playing the roles. Back when the plays were originally performed it was paupers who played the parts and now when you see it, it’s the more affluent who are shown, it’s been twisted somewhat. It goes with the whole establishment of theatre these days that is very upper class and quite segregated still. The mindset needs to change.”

So what can be done to engage a wider pool of people to drama and in particular, Shakespeare? Taitte believes relating historical literature with the issues of the next generation’s future could help.

“If you take plays and break them down, you can see the characters as real people then you will have younger people thinking ‘Shakespeare knew everything I’m going through.’ I became more attracted to Shakespeare because of the issues and the themes. I’m really into philosophy, world politics, wizardry and comments on British society and colonialism so I wanted to delve into that,” he reasoned.

Five years on from filming the actor has many ventures of his own, including a web series. The actor leaves some parting words for anyone looking to get into the business: “Make sure that it’s what you really want to do. With acting it needs to be a part of your life, artistry needs to be a part of your DNA if you’re going to pursue it. From there comes longevity.”

Tempest is in cinemas now, for more information visit www.tempestmovie.net

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