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 OAM is ArtsHub's National Performing Arts Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on Three Triple R FM. Richard is a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, a Melbourne Fringe Festival Living Legend, and was awarded the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards' Facilitator's Prize in 2020. In 2021 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Green Room Awards Association. Most recently, Richard received a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in June 2024. Follow him on Twitter: @richardthewatts