Shakespeare in Southern Africa - Volume 23, Issue 1, 2011
Volumes & issues
Volume 23, Issue 1, 2011
Author Chris ThurmanSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 23, pp V –VII (2011)More Less
Earlier this year I came across a review (by The Spectator's Lloyd Evans) of a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Romeo and Juliet that had clearly irked the reviewer. Evans disparages director Rupert Goold for "spectacular irrelevance" (84) in terms of the set, staging and effects but also criticises attempts to contrive relevance - or at least contemporary resonance - through, for instance, the use of regional British accents and anachronistic costuming. Trying to make the play "accessible" ("a new word for 'provincial', formerly a vice but now an obligation"), notes Evans, the RSC has made things more difficult for "those who have no previous experience of Shakespeare": such novices in fact "want the production conveyed directly and authentically, not burdened with add-ons and hotshot flourishes from alien traditions". So his objections, Evans claims, are not just the "sensitivities of a purist" or "fuddyduddy". Instead, he affirms, newcomers to Shakespeare, recent initiates and seasoned aficionados alike constitute a collective whose credo is "Nothing interests us in Shakespeare more than Shakespeare.
Source: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 23, pp III –V (2011)More Less
For this guest-edited issue of Shakespeare in Southern Africa, contributions were invited on the theme of "Banishment, xenophobia, home and exile in Shakespeare and the Renaissance". The general theme offers many ways into the literature and the period, and, if any explicit link were needed, connects Shakespeare's time with our own. While interesting in such ways in itself, the topic was, perhaps opportunistically, suggested by the 'xenophobic violence' of 2008 in South Africa. There seems never to be any shortage of other examples (apartheid deployed both external exile and internal banishment), but it was felt that SiSA could carry an individual perspective on the theme.
Author Ton HoenselaarsSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 23, pp 1 –10 (2011)More Less
If this description of "a kaleidoscope of European curiosities" - where we eventually meet Master Shakespeare - catches your fancy, you might well wish to locate this "Promenade des Anglais" on the map more accurately. This is not the cosmopolitan Promenade des Anglais in Mediterranean Nice, but a pedestrian area further north on the map of Europe, in western Berlin, between the rather chic residential area of Charlottenburg and the industrial suburb of Spandau. We are on the site of Ruhleben Camp, a racecourse rapidly converted in October and November 1914 into a civil internment camp for some 5,000 British males, resident in Germany, visiting the country, or afloat in its territorial waters, during the early months of the Great War.
"An extravagant and wheeling stranger of here and everywhere." Characterising Othello on film : exploring seven film adaptationsAuthor Anthony DaviesSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 23, pp 11 –19 (2011)More Less
One problem that Othello presents for the film-maker lies in the location of the tragic action. Film is primarily a visual medium, dealing with the reflection of light from surfaces; yet the central dramatic development in the play is in the change which darkens Othello's psychological landscape. There is little exterior action in the central scenes of the play to fill the screen with spectacle. What visual elements can the film maker work with in order to position Othello in his relation to Venetian society and to impress his exotic individuality in the mind of the viewer? There are clear aspects of Othello's singularity which can be made to register on the surface. His skin colour, the clothes he wears, the unusual pendent adornments that might hang about his person, movement, gesture, facial expression - all elements that might be equally important on the theatre stage. On a sound track, words can be spoken with distinctive inflections, can suggest shifts in strength of feeling, as can music in evoking thoughts and memories and emotions lying behind verbal discourse.
Source: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 23, pp 21 –29 (2011)More Less
The "Master of the Revels" of the Jacobean court records a performance of The Moor of Venis by "Shaxberd" in November 1604. The timing and the setting of this first performance of Othello in the court of James I, almost 20 years before it appeared in quarto, are of interest for a reflection on the relationship between the play's exploration of alterity and the construction of 'Englishness'. The play comes into being within the English court, rather than the Globe or the Rose theatre. It is first performed to an audience that includes the expansionist Stuart monarch and during a period marked by the active pursuit of English colonisation.
Source: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 23, pp 31 –42 (2011)More Less
It could be said that the stranger has a story to tell, or, with equal justice, that the stranger has to tell a story. Gypsies, who feature strongly in the drama of Shakespeare's age, suggest themselves as a type of the story-telling stranger. This paper offers first a brief account of the arrival of gypsies, in England particularly, in an attempt to relate them to the native itinerant poor. Against this background Jonson's masque The Gypsies Metamorphos'd (1621) and the Dekker / Ford / Middleton / Rowley collaboration The Spanish Gypsy (1623), make a strange impression. Written, at least in part, to serve differing, but related, political ends, they offer imaginative, even parodic, rather than anthropological accounts of the gypsy. Shakespeare attempts no such extended if partial presentations of gypsies. His few direct references connect rather with a network of images in the plays which suggests sympathy with wanderers, exiles and other marginals. As Linda Woodbridge has shown King Lear at least is an expression of sympathy for the vagrant and homeless. I want to suggest further that the story-telling itinerant for Shakespeare is not only an image of social disruption, but offers the playwright instances of a particular type of psychological alienation.
Author John MastersonSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 23, pp 43 –54 (2011)More Less
At the outset of his 2010 novel Last Summer, Craig Higginson includes an epigraph from Prospero's epilogue to The Tempest ("Now my charms are all o'erthrown,/And what strength I have's mine own,/Which is most faint"; E.1-3). For the reader expecting an intertextually saturated re-visioning of what is widely considered to be Shakespeare's last play, in the vein of Aimé Césaire's Une Tempête (1968) or Marina Warner's Indigo (1994), the citation is suitably more playful and provocative. As such, it sets the tone for the literary encounter to come. In order to explore some of the nuances of Higginson's text in light of The Tempest, I offer my own epigraph, taken from the play's final act, to gesture towards what I consider to be some of the enduring achievements of Last Summer.
Author Derek CohenSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 23, pp 55 –63 (2011)More Less
Violence is the heart and soul of Macbeth. It permeates the action and the narrative; it clings to the characters; it infects and controls the imagination of each of the personae. There is no respite, no real relief from violence in any tiny nook or large landscape of the drama. In many ways this is Shakespeare's most hopeless play; no moment is free of danger and dread, while catastrophe seems constantly imminent. Good news itself is tempered with anxiety. When the witches bring the tidings of Macbeth's elevation to Thane of Cawdor, his body seems to act independently of his will. Macbeth informs his wife of the good things that have happened to him, and she sees only a bloody staircase to the future. The sadness of the play is housed in Macbeth's terrible, passionate regret, itself the product of a violence that looms and lingers in the play; it never goes away or gets less.
Author Colette GordonSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 23, pp 64 –69 (2011)More Less
At the end of 2010, while London audiences flocked to see 'a Hamlet for our age' in Nicholas Hytner's modern dress production (a catalogue of modern-dress 'innovations': media-savvy dictators, busy apparatchiks, surveillance, rioting, silenced dissidents, suited extras with conspicuous earpieces, all assembled on the National Theatre's grand stage) a smaller audience gathered at London's Oval Theatre to watch Kupenga Kwa Hamlet (The Madness of Hamlet), an eighty-minute two-man version after the 'bad quarto', performed in English and Shona. The production, which was warmly received in its first run, raises a number of questions touching the themes of this issue: questions about exile and expatriation, as well as xenophilia - in the international theatre's embrace of foreigners (xenos) who tend to be guests, performing between two worlds.
Author Simon Van SchalkwykSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 23, pp 70 –75 (2011)More Less
William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream (1595), presented by Cape-based theatre company The Mechanicals and directed by Guy de Lancey, opened to positive reviews at the Intimate Theatre, Cape Town in March 2011. The production, roundly praised for its "dark" and "unconventional" approach to an essentially comic play, offers yet another opportunity to reflect upon the situation of Shakespeare in South Africa.
Author Scott BurnettSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 23, pp 76 –78 (2011)More Less
The National Theatre UK's 2010 production of Hamlet, shot in high definition and shown in South African cinemas earlier this year, gives us a fully up-to-date Hamlet. Rory Kinnear, weedy and balding at 33, plays Hamlet. Artistic director of the National Theatre, Nicholas Hytner, directs. The production is set in a fictional modern-day dictatorship, and avoids textual adjustments to the quarto/folio composite we have inherited as the 'standard' Hamlet (at least none that this odd-job scholar could spot). Denmark is quite obviously modern Britain. Hamlet slouches around in a hoodie, very much a citizen of David Cameron's "Broken Britain". He's well upset his dad is dead and his mum's shacked up with his uncle, innit? This is a Hamlet we could imagine on the Tube, the contents of his desk in a box on his lap, a lay-off letter from Merrill Lynch stuffed untidily into the breast pocket of his crumpled suit. He yells obscenities at other passengers, cosmic injustice throbbing behind his eyes.
Author Marc MaufortSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 23, pp 79 –80 (2011)More Less
As a number of critics have noted, Richard III, an early tragedy belonging to Shakespeare's cycle of history plays, shares similarities with Macbeth, that brilliant dramatisation of the psychological tensions tearing apart a tyrantâ??s ravaged soul. It was this intimate aspect of Richard III, rather than its epic features, that characterised the 'chamber music'-like production I attended on a preview night at Artscape's Arena theatre. The show had premiered at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in 2010 and the small venue selected for this 2011 revival, as well as the cramped stage area, reinforced the sense of intimacy - which amplified the almost unbearable tensions of the concluding scenes.
Source: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 23, pp 81 –83 (2011)More Less
A key feature of the annual Maynardville Shakespeare production has been to make Shakespeare accessible - to invite Cape Town audiences to connect with the bard's bawdy, poetic or comic language and come away delighted. The audience's responses on opening night of The Taming of the Shrew would suggest that this year's production, with its strong cast and vivid staging, was enormously successful. The effect of the lighting was immediately to transform this open-air leafy world into an Italian circus arena, with strings of tiny Christmas lights beautifully delineating an imaginary circus space even as it remained open to the night sky. The audience was charmed.
Author Denise NewfieldSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 23, pp 84 –86 (2011)More Less
For those interested in adaptations, appropriations and localisations of Shakespeare, Weyward Macbeth is a collection of essays providing a fascinating, interdisciplinary record of Macbeth's many performances and appropriations in American theatre as well as in American literary, political and social history. A volume in the Signs of Race series which aims "to make us more conscious, and more critical, readers of the signs that have separated, and still separate, one group of human beings from another" (Series Editor's Preface), Weyward Macbeth traces how race intersects with Macbeth. The book's editors construct a history of the play in theatre, film, music, poetry, cartoons and politics which narrates how race and racism haunt the performance of Macbeth. The book is far from monolithic and didactic, however, developing its theme from multiple standpoints and in relation to different periods.
Author Frances RingwoodSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 23, pp 87 –89 (2011)More Less
Riffling the pages of Lord Hamlet, the closing lines of Yeats' "Second Coming" spring to mind: "And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,/Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"
In many ways this tiny play script represents the culmination of a number of trends in Shakespeare studies over the past decade or so and, although inspiring, its structure and content make it a kind of "rough beast", albeit a more promising one than that in the Yeats poem. As an introduction the editor recounts a number of Hamlet performances that he has been privileged to watch over a span of years, both abroad and in South Africa; these will, hopefully, some day, have a special archival import for the South African Shakespeare scholar who finally writes this country's history of Shakespeare performance. Malan's chronicle is followed by a "collage" of the play, put together for the purposes of classroom performance. Finally, the whole is rounded off with a number of quotations (from a surprising array of theatrical noteworthies) on Hamlet as a role.