In 1999 Leo Nolan, at the time Artistic Director of RMT, decided to adapt William Shakespeare's “The Tempest” as an open-air puppetry show. Working closely with members of the Knowles family of Bolton, Lancashire, he wrote and constructed a six person play that used rod and shadow puppets. A large collapsible booth was built to house the shadow screen and scenery with props and puppets created from papier mache, fabric and wood.
Through 2000 RMT took this new show across the country with numerous gigs including Durham, Darwen, Burnley, Accrington, Tockholes, Hall I’th Wood and Blackpool. The show was such a success that it was invited back to play many of these venues again and a broader tour was soon on the cards.
In summer 2000 it was decided to revise the show so that it could be performed by two performers instead of six. This would be the first of many revisions of the play over the coming years with Leo Nolan and talented artist and performer Collette Knowles taking the lead. By the summer of 2000 RMT had been invited to tour the show in Italy and so packed their suitcases for Tuscany where the Tempest received its European debut. Invited back the next year The Tempest returned to Italy in 2001, playing to audiences in Bologna.
After the 2000 tour of Italy the script for The Tempest was re-worked and much of the Shakespearean language replaced by contemporary dialogue and audience interaction. This gave the show the lively and chaotic feel which has delighted audiences ever since.
In 2001 performances continued with returns to Hall i'th Wood and Darwen, new gigs for X-Trax in Manchester and performances in Chorley. However, with Ms. Knowles beginning her studies at the prestigious Bretton Hall University in September, time for new performance was scarce and would remain so for the next three years. 2002 saw new performances in Settle, Bentham and Irlam and 2003 another return to Hall i'th Wood and the Craven Puppetry Festival.
In 2005 Collette Knowles, fresh from her studies, returned to The Tempest with freelance actor and musician David Lloyd. Now the Artistic Director of Rough Magic Theatre, Ms. Knowles undertook another set of revisions to the play, including the new role of “Storyteller” and introducing new costumes and an enhanced “Goddess” scene. This reworking of the play was performed at Cragrats Theatre in Holmfirth West Yorkshire and at the Little Portion Prayer Festival in Wales.
Rough Magic Theatre has spent the next two years concentrating on workshops for schools and community groups and smaller scale shows such as their unique Suitcase Theatre. In 2007 Ms. Knowles toured primary schools with workshops based on The Tempest and work began on its replacement “Alice in Wonderland”.
For 2016 (The 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s death) Rough Magic Theatre are touring The Tempest again with Leo Nolan once again in the leading role of Prospero. Bookings are being taken for June onwards.