This hour-long play, written by Oladipo Agboluaje and developed by Theatre Centre in collaboration with the highly acclaimed Brazilian theatre company Nos de Morro, is set in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Rio de Janeiro is the base for this company, so the play was partly spoken in Portuguese with English translation. Having been told this beforehand, I expected it to be mainly in English but with Shakespearian language as the writer made known that play storyline was drawn form The Tempest. The Unicorn Theatre isn’t a very big theatre in terms of size and mainly aims their plays at a younger audience so I thought the storyline would be simple to understand with likable characters and audience interaction.
With inspiration from Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, Knock Against My Heart focuses on many poignant issues such as betrayal, passion, revenge and just. It also explores power, freedom and manipulation. It tells the story of a dominant father, Prospero who is hungry for power of the land’s irrigation system but is also father to the innocent Miranda. The mysterious Caliban, who control’s the town’s water source, is battling with Prospero for freedom of himself and his people, yet successfully seduces Miranda, much to her fathers dislike. Meanwhile Prospero’s brother, Antonio provides comical entertainment with a secret motive.
The performance used symbolism as its performance technique with each character having a type of animal to represent it. Symbolism was also extended to the set- design and props in the play with props acting as more than one item. Multi-rolling was touched but not used in depth and depended on throughout the play, making the cast very small, made up of four actors and actresses.
The main characters of Knock Against My Heart were William De Paula who played Caliban, Mariana Whitehouse who performed as Miranda, Dani Machancoses who took the part of Antonio and Andrï¿½ Santinho who played Prospero. Multi-rolling also took place by Machancoses and Santinho who played plumbers. The change in character was shown by them taking off their hat and coats and placing a bandana around their head.
William De Paula gave a strong, continuous performance as Caliban throughout the play, with his mysterious and animalistic mannerisms. At the beginning of the play, De Paula comes out from behind the favelas slowly, with his arms reaching up, peering over and perches on top of the mountain. This makes us feel as though he has a sense of control over the city and watches over them yet it also it makes us feel as though he is guarding and protecting them. We then see him open up from this controlling character into a passionate and confident singer. He does this by picking up a stick instrument and singing a song. Although the song is sang in Portuguese, De Paula sings it with such passion and emotion we can tell it is not a happy, upbeat song. I liked the way that he didn’t smile during the song; he just looked into the audience’s eyes seriously which put us into the right mood for the rest of the performance.
When Prospero, Miranda and Antonio enter Caliban’s party, we can sense a tense atmosphere by the way the actors expressed their facial expressions. De Paula’s face dropped when he saw Prospero but boldly walked across the room with his chest high and his head upwards as to appear not to be afraid. After talking to Prospero his actions and mannerisms changed as he talked to Miranda. He behaved gentler with his movements less harsh and brash.
In general, when around Miranda, he acts more intimate by standing closer to her and carrying her around. When he dances with her at the party, he smiles a lot which shows a different side to him. Although he seems nice and gentle we can see that he can influence and manipulate Miranda by his actions but more importantly his facial response to the consequences. For example, when he turns her into a dove for the first time and she’s quite awkward when walking/flying, De Paula does not try to help her, just stands there smiling. He also persuades her to change the flower in her hair, from her Dad, to one from him. He does this by comforting her with a calm tone and making her feel special by giving all his attention and eye focus to her.
I especially liked De Paula’s movement across the stage when travelling to and from Miranda’s house. He would crouch low, hunch his back and move fast. This gave us the impression that he was an animal, a panther to be specific, so more symbolism was used here. Most of these journeys took place in the night so this suggested that he was sneaking around trying to be quiet. This suggests that he is cunning because he tries so hard to be quiet and not to wake Prospero and Antonio. Panthers do these actions when preparing to attack their prey. By De Paula copying this, he made the audience feel as though he was spying on Miranda, as if she were his prey. Other actions, such as back flips, forward rolls and leaping across the stage, also contributing in creating the panther side to Caliban.
I like the way in which De Paula’s emotion during the play was very varied. He changed from to another clearly and effectively by his change of facial expressions and change in gestures and movements. When Caliban was content, he would smile and move quite slow and gently. His tone of voice was calmer and he didn’t use his hands to enhance what he was saying and his emotion. I liked the continual way Caliban would point his finger at Prospero and raise his voice. This let the audience know that he was angry and frustrated with Prospero and wanted his attention. His voice change told us that Caliban had a short temper and made us fearful of him when he came up close to the audience. When angry he made his movements brasher and sudden which made the audience more jumpy.
Fighting and stage combat was another technique used by De Paula to vent his emotion towards the end of the production. Caliban fought Prospero twice and their scenes consisted of leaping at one another, punching and quick dodges. I thought that the punches thrown by De Paula weren’t very realistic as you could see that they posed. They were also thrown quite slowly which wasn’t very realistic. I think that this scene should have been performed at a faster pace in order to keep the audience’s attention and the realism of the play. One good thing about his performance during this scene though was the fact that he behaved like a panther again. This showed us that he changes to a panther when he changes emotion; happy to angry.