Asylum seekers meet Shakespeare in bold new take on The Tempest

Written by playwright Helen Machalias, ‘This Rough Magic’ uses Shakespeare as a lens through which to explore our nation’s treatment of asylum seekers and refugees.
This Rough Magic. Image is a bare stage with several actors, kneeling, sitting or standing, one holding up a stick, and another holding a cloth that could symbolise a child.

‘It started with a really basic, “What if?” premise, which was: what if the characters from The Tempest were Iranian refugees and were in the Christmas Island detention centre,’ playwright Helen Machalias says of her new work, This Rough Magic.

Premiering this week at The Street Theatre, Canberra, the play has changed significantly as a result of successive creative developments.

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Richard Watts is ArtsHub's National Performing Arts Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on Three Triple R FM, and serves as the Chair of La Mama Theatre's volunteer Committee of Management. Richard is a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Living Legend in 2017. In 2020 he was awarded the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards' Facilitator's Prize. Most recently, Richard was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Green Room Awards Association in June 2021. Follow him on Twitter: @richardthewatts