Robert Lepage and his production company Ex Machina have transformed an outdoor amphitheatre in Quebec into a magical island for a summer production of The Tempest.

The super producer, who is in demand around the world, is working with the Huron-Wendake Nation on a joint production of Shakespeare's play.

Lepage directed Das Rheingold for the Metropolitan Opera  earlier this year and is known for huge spectacles such as his theatrical work The Blue Dragon and the opera The Nightingale and Other Short Fables. In Montreal in 1992, he directed The Tempest for the French theatre of the National Arts Centre. He has also directed Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

For the new production, Lepage has given a First Nations twist to the tale of Prospero, who retreats with his daughter Miranda to a wild island swept by forces of nature.

"At the time Shakespeare wrote the play, he is trying to portray the aboriginal world, but he did not know what we know today. It was the time when people were just venturing out in ships to the New World — the French, the Spanish — and they didn't know how to describe the lives of aboriginal peoples," Lepage said, speaking in French in an interview with Radio-Canada.

Lepage's The Tempest brings together native and non-native performers on stage for a month of performances.


Lepage makes the most of the natural setting for the production at Wendake amphitheatre. (Renaud Philippe/Ex Machina)

Lepage said he fell in love with the outdoor amphitheatre in Wendake for its a beautiful setting near the St. Charles River, 14 km from downtown  Quebec City.

"It is certainly an impressive site with the trees in the background and the light… shining through the bottom of the trees," he said.

"There is a depth one would never find on a normal stage."

Lepage uses the special effects skills of Ex Machina to create the magic of Shakespeare's island, using multimedia effects and acrobatics. However, this Tempest remains an intimate production.

The Huron-Wendake First Nation hopes it will boost tourism to the region. Curious theatre-goers are already making the drive from Montreal.

La Tempête stars Jean Guy as Prospero, Chantal Dupuis as Miranda and Kathia Rock as Ariel. It runs until July 30 at the Wendake amphitheatre.

With files from Radio-Canada's Camille Simard