Salt Waves Fresh: An Ecological Adaptation of Twelfth Night

Salt Waves Fresh is an ecological adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night by Professor Gretchen Minton. It is set in contemporary Townsville, Queensland, and takes place during a cyclone and attendant flooding. The characters and storyline are based on Twelfth Night, but this adaptation mixes language from this play with passages in other Shakespeare plays, historical material, contemporary Australian poetry, and original passages that highlight the environmental issues that this region is facing. 

Composition and performance credit: Erik Pearson.

This online resource provides background information about the adaptation, its 2023 workshops and performances, as well as new educational resources for teachers who may wish to incorporate Salt Waves Fresh into their teaching of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.

Salt Waves Fresh workshop in Townsville featuring TheatreiNQ performers.

Salt Waves Fresh workshop in Townsville (2023) - Claire Hansen and Gretchen Minton with TheatreiNQ performers Arminelle Fleming (as Malvolio) and Michael Sams (as Toby).


Salt Waves Fresh was born out of a desire to use Shakespeare to speak about ecological crises in an environment radically different from my own. Bozeman, Montana (United States of America) and Townsville, Queensland (Australia) are indeed a world apart, and their environments are in many ways polar opposites, but both places are experiencing severe struggles brought on by the climate emergency.
When I arrived in Far North Queensland in January 2023, I was, like Viola, a stranger in a strange land, wondering “What country, friends, is this?” I had limited time to learn about the complex human and more-than-human histories of this place, so I focused on trying to ask the right questions—to use dislocation itself to open up a place for dramatising what I consider to be the most pressing issue of our time: the perilous future of life on our planet.
Salt Waves Fresh foregrounds the “watery” nature of Twelfth Night—its interest in shipwrecks, drowning, tears, and waves. The adaptation retains much of the language and plot of Twelfth Night, while also incorporating material from other Shakespeare plays, from the poetry of Judith Wright, from accounts written by cyclone survivors in Queensland, and from my own original writing. Shakespeare’s play is a story of mourning and revenge, but also of forgiveness and regeneration. Salt Waves Fresh is an exploration of these competing issues within the framework of anthropogenic environmental crises. Listening to the more-than-human world is the first step in understanding how to move toward solutions to the damage we have caused. Together.
Salt Waves Fresh is set in contemporary or near-future Townsville (Queensland, Australia), though there are frequent references to the characters’ historical connections. There has been a cyclone and attendant flooding that has temporarily cut off the characters from the outside world.
You can find out more by reading extracts from the play! Here are two scenes from Salt Waves Fresh:
  • Scene 1 - the opening scene of the play.
  • Scene 6 - set within Olivia's home, this scene features Feste, Toby and Malvolio.

If you're interested in reading the full script or would like to enquire about a production, please contact Gretchen


Salt Waves Fresh is an innovative ecological adaptation of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. It encourages us to think about the relationship between literature, drama and the environment, and to consider how the texts we read (and study) might illuminate our relationship with the natural world. It also confronts the challenges of a changing climate. 

If you are a teacher at school, university or elsewhere, you might like to use the materials here as prompts for a range of educational activities. Here are a few ideas!


The Workshop (Townsville, March 2023)
In March 2023 Gretchen Minton and Claire Hansen workshopped the script of Salt Waves Fresh with five actors from TheatreiNQ. The workshop was supported by a small grant from James Cook University's College of Arts, Society and Education and the Australian National University. The workshopping took place at Anderson Botanical Gardens and the beach at Cape Pallarenda Park, where actors took on different roles, experimenting with how the characters (especially Feste, the cockatoo) should be portrayed. Immersing the play in the local environment created opportunities to understand the text in terms of the ocean, sand, birds, trees, and other aspects of the ecosystem. 
Feste (Michael Sams) at Cape Pallarenda, Townsville.
U.S. Performance (Montana, June 2023)
In June 2023, three actors from Montana InSite Theatre performed scenes from Salt Waves Fresh at Tippet Rise Art Center. The scenes featured the interactions between Malvolio, Toby, and Feste, highlighting Toby’s revenge plot on Malvolio and the possibilities of redemption for the characters. 
Kirsten Daniels as Feste and John Hosking as Toby from Montana InSite Theatre in a scene from Salt Waves Fresh.

Staged Reading (Sydney, December 2023)

Thanks to funding from the Australian and New Zealand Shakespeare Association (ANZSA) and the University of Sydney, Salt Waves Fresh was performed as a staged reading by 7 actors from Bell Shakespeare at the University of Sydney on 8 December, 2023 and co-directed by Anna Kamaralli. This performance was part of the ANZSA conference, so delegates and community members witnessed the first public performance of the script in its entirety. 


Bell Shakespeare actors as Malvolio (Will Bartolo) and Toby (Christopher Tomkinson) at a staged reading for ANZSA in Sydney.


Thank you to the Australian-American Fulbright Commission, James Cook University, TheatreiNQ, the Australian and New Zealand Shakespeare Association, Liam Semler, Huw Griffiths, Anna Kamaralli, Bell Shakespeare and Shakespeare Reloaded/Better Strangers for supporting this project in various ways.