From fury to forgiveness: Michela Farrugia in The Tempest

Young actress Michela Farrugia speaks to MaltaToday about returning to Shakespeare as she takes on the role of Miranda  – produced by MADC in this year’s edition of the annual ‘Shakespeare at San Anton’ productions

This is not your first rodeo aboard the Bard train - you’ve also appeared in WhatsTheirNames Theatre’s dynamic adaptation of Measure for Measure at The Splendid earlier this spring. How would you say the two productions differ for you as an actress, both in terms of the intrinsic text itself, as well as the general approach to staging Shakespeare?

I can’t help but draw similarities between the two plays. They both share themes of forgiveness and justice, and keeping in mind that in ‘The Tempest’, the character of ‘Prospero’ has become female – ‘Prospera’ (played by Kate Decesare), I feel that both productions heavily deal with the behaviours of certain powerful men towards women. Not to mention that both the ‘Duke’ and ‘Prospera’ both play the puppet master.
This being said, ‘The Tempest’ is not as plot-heavy as Measure for Measure, giving it a slower pace, allowing the audience to see themselves as the characters, rather than questioning their moral codes. Both characters that I portray (Mariana in Measure for Measure, and Miranda in The Tempest) depend on men for their sense of independence.

Miranda is unbelievably naïve, and cannot be blamed for her dependence. Her dependence on Ferdinand is her step forward in life. On the other hand, Mariana is so engulfed in her sorrows, that her dependence is a way of giving up, yet she is fully responsible for her actions.

I am really enjoying exploring Miranda after having played Mariana, as their end goals are similar; yet their personalities, backstory, and plots differ completely.  Measure for Measure had a small cast and was performed in an intimate setting, making the plot and text itself the main focus. It was fun to play different characters too as I felt that we were all

active story-tellers. The Tempest will be staged around a pool, with elaborate lighting. The spectacle of the theatrical experience takes centre stage. Playing only Miranda, it is great to focus all my rehearsal time on building her up and making her read to a larger space.

The Tempest enjoys a healthy critical and cultural afterlife, being of particular interest to thinkers and scholars of the post-colonial vein. Which of the play’s many thematic and narrative strands excite you the most, and how do you feel it is relevant to contemporary audiences?

Forgiveness. Although this is a 400-year-old play, Prospera is a character that we all know too well, and that perhaps at times, we have had similarities to. She is tired, and vengeful. She carries around the wrongdoings of others towards her for years, letting them affect her life, as well as the lives of her daughter, who is denied her mother’s love and attention, and Ariel and Caliban, whom she enslaves without batting an eye. She preaches justice, yet her idea of it is very one-sided and selfish. Since the play has no higher order of justice, Prospera is allowing herself to toy with people’s minds, as she carves out her vengeful plan.

Yet, with all her mystical power, she simply forgives her enemies, thus demystifying her. I feel that one of Shakespeare’s biggest attributes is his ability to create characters that are rooted in reality. Things around us have changed, but we are still the same people we were 400 years ago. Just like Prospera, we all struggle with the idea of forgiveness, making this play, and many other Shakespearean works as relevant today as they were then.

What’s next for you?  

I will share the stage once again with cast of MARA at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer. After that, I hope to continue working on theatrical productions as to expand my education through watching other actors and directors at work.

Directed by Stephen Oliver for the MADC, The Tempest will be staged at the San Anton Gardens in Attard from June 28 to July 8 at 8.30pm. There will be no performance on July 1. Bookings: http://booking.madc.com.mt/

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