Shakespeare in Southern Africa - Volume 24, Issue 1, 2012
Volumes & issues
Volume 24, Issue 1, 2012
Author Chris ThurmanSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 24, pp III –V (2012)More Less
By now, all South African readers of this journal - and most international readers too - have heard of (and probably had enough of) the controversy surrounding "The Spear", the painting that got Brett Murray into trouble for ostensibly depicting President Jacob Zuma's genitals. Along with thousands of others, I weighed in on the debate; my contribution was to foreground how flawed assumptions about the operation of mimesis in works of art had resulted in a misunderstanding of the so-called 'portrait'. Most of my article addressed this problem, pointing to Murray's own previous invocation of René Magritte's 1928 painting, "La Trahison des Images" (The Treachery of Images), which famously includes the words "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" (This is not a pipe) below a picture of a pipe. Thus, I suggested, "if Murray is simply using the penis as a metonym for a series of already-current critiques of the president" - given that sex and sexuality are central to many of those critiques - "Magritte's warning should hover over 'The Spear' like an invisible subtitle: This is not Zuma's pipe. It is not even a mimetic representation of Zuma's pipe. It's a provocative placement of a symbol." (Thurman 9)
Future directions for South African Shakespeare Studies : changing the emphasis, growing the field : reportAuthor Natasha DistillerSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 24, pp 1 –2 (2012)More Less
On 11 and 12 August 2011, a workshop was held at the Institute for the Humanities in Africa (HUMA) at the University of Cape Town. The participants were: Natasha Distiller (HUMA, UCT); Sandra Young, Collette Gordon, Siphokazi Jonas and Jacques van Heerden (English department, UCT); Pier Paulo Frassinelli (Monash); Laurence Wright (Institute for the Study of English in Africa, Rhodes University); David Schalkwyk (Folger Institute); Kate McLuskie (The Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham); and Poonam Trivedi (Department of English, University of Delhi).
Author Brian WillanSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 24, pp 3 –24 (2012)More Less
In the twentieth century Shakespeare came to impinge in a significant way on the lives and thought of a small but increasing number of black South Africans. From the beginning, as Laurence Wright has observed, Shakespeare was regarded in overwhelmingly positive terms by the few black people who came into contact with his plays. Shakespeare represented an aspect - and arguably a rather important aspect - of a literary and political culture to which they felt entitled but which, for long periods, their rulers would rather deny them. In the famous apartheid-era Drum magazine of the 1950s, though, both black and white journalists drew upon Shakespeare to enrich their understanding and descriptions of township cultures, aware of the parallels between Shakespeare's Elizabethan world and what they now saw around them. On Robben Island in the 1980s a collected works of Shakespeare, disguised as the Koran, circulated amongst the political prisoners who chose, and marked, their favourite quotations. Shakespeare, it seems, could speak very directly and positively to the experience of black South Africans.
Source: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 24, pp 25 –43 (2012)More Less
A continuing trend in the current re-evaluation of the European canon is the adaptation of influential European plays by writers from 'postcolonies'. Varying in intent, sophistication and methodology, such adaptations are part of the core of the offerings of important African playwrights such as Wole Soyinka, Athol Fugard, Efua Sutherland, Ola Rotimi and Femi Osofisan. A basic explanation for this phenomenon is these writers' recognition of a hidden polemic in narratives, as well as their inherent malleability, which makes re-staging invaluable for both the interrogation of colonial representations and for the invention of a new human image. The endeavour is, however, paradoxical, given the multiple theoretical and ideological implications arising from the colonised or erstwhile colonised rewriting the master narratives of the colonisers or former colonisers.
Author Andrew FoleySource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 24, pp 45 –56 (2012)More Less
Ever since A.C. Bradley sought to explain "what actually happens in the play" (93), there has been widespread disagreement among Shakespearean scholars about what does actually happen in Hamlet, and about what meaning to attach to the events of the play. In the broadest terms the critical debate divides into two lines of tradition. The first, which can be traced through C.S. Lewis, Maynard Mack, H.D.F. Kitto, G.B. Harrison, John Holloway, Kenneth Muir, Diana Devlin and others, interprets the play as the working out of divine purpose, or at least as justice finally being served and peace and order being restored. The second line, which includes G. Wilson Knight, L.C. Knights, Sydney Bolt, Eleanor Prosser and Graham Holderness, regards the play as presenting a rather darker and more problematic worldview. In this article, I offer a contribution to this debate by arguing that critics belonging to the second line do not go far enough - that in fact Hamlet represents the blackest of all Shakespeare's tragedies and expresses a vision of life which is unrelentingly bleak and pessimistic.
Author Colette GordonSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 24, pp 57 –63 (2012)More Less
An actor in a school blazer jumps to attention: "One should particularly note the difference in character between the sexes, a difference so great one might suppose them members of two different races!" Another leaps up to continue the lesson about "woman who preserves the order and decency of the society" [sic] and without whom, "men soon resume the savage state and the comforts of the home are exchanged for the misery of the mining camp!" (Calarco 9). Watching Shakespeare's R&J staged by Fred Abrahamse, one might think that New Yorker Joe Calarco's 1997 hit adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, which has been performed in the USA, the UK, Australia, the Netherlands and Japan since its hugely successful year-long run off-Broadway, had been specially adapted for audiences at the Fugard theatre, a reclaimed performance space shared with Cape Town's District Six Museum and strongly associated with forced removals under Apartheid.
A South African aesthetic at Shakespeare's Globe
Venus and Adonis (U-Venas no Adonisi), Mark Dornford-May (Dir.) : essays and reviewsAuthor Lisa CagnacciSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 24, pp 64 –66 (2012)More Less
The Globe to Globe festival, running from 21 April to 9 June 2012 at Shakespeare's Globe in London, was an unprecedented international celebration of Shakespeare: over seven weeks, thirty-seven plays were staged, each in a different language by a theatre company from a different country. Offerings ranged from Cymbeline in Juba Arabic to Love's Labour's Lost in British Sign Language; from productions by major national theatres (such as the National Theatre of China's Richard III) to fledgling emerging companies (like the young Kenyan company Bitter Pill with their Swahili Merry Wives of Windsor). Even within this very diverse line-up, the Isango Ensemble's staged version of Venus and Adonis was unique: not a play but a fully theatricalised narrative poem set to music and sung through; a piece translated not into one language, but moving in and out of six - Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, Tswana and a little Afrikaans alongside several passages of Shakespeare's original English text.
Not to puzzle but to provoke
King Lear - This Time it Hurts, Guy de Lancey (Dir.) : essays and reviewsAuthor Donald PowersSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 24, pp 67 –68 (2012)More Less
The subtitle of Guy de Lancey's production of King Lear, "This Time it Hurts", suggests something of the bold rough energy that characterises this version of the ancient story of a king brought low by his rash decisions. It suggests too the mock portentous slogan of an action film sequel - one thinks of the sequels to Die Hard (1988). De Lancey's is an impressively bleak and 'bad' interpretation of Lear, but bad only in the sense of 'hardcore', unrestrained.
A magical South African masque
Henry Purcell's "The Fairy Queen", Robert Lehmeier, (Dir.) : essays and reviewsAuthor Isabel BradleySource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 24, pp 69 –70 (2012)More Less
This 'semi-opera' of Purcell's, with a libretto based on A Midsummer Night's Dream, was first performed in 1692 (about a hundred years after Shakespeare wrote the play). Semi-opera is a form of entertainment that "grew from the court Masques of the 16th and 17th centuries in Europe" but, as the programme notes for this production explained, "Umculo|Cape Festival created a new version of the piece specifically for the South African context. The story is concentrated around the central points of conflict, the masques have been cut and the arias allocated to the main characters."
Of emblems, funerals, adaptation, song, antisemitism and scenology...
'This Earthly Stage' : World and Stage in Late Medieval and Early Modern England, Brett D. Hirsch and Christopher Wortham (Eds.) : essays and reviewsAuthor Nicholas CollinsSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 24, pp 71 –74 (2012)More Less
As co-editor of this collection of essays, Christopher Wortham notes in his introduction that, of the papers that make it up, "a number of the offerings centre on Shakespeare, but a number also focus on his contemporaries". What this can tell the reader of 'This earthly stage': World and Stage in Late Medieval and Early Modern England is that the period once simply known as 'Shakespearean' has sprouted heads anew. The world that we thought we knew is now populated not only with writers who imitate Shakespeare, but with those who inspired him, those cultural phenomena which informed his work and, importantly, those people or things which had nothing directly to do with the playwright. If Shakespeare has been canonised in a secular religion called 'history', then this volume shows that we must not forget those who attended his mass, and even those who belonged to a different church (in some cases, quite literally).
Will and Wille
Shakespeare on Love: The Sonnets and Plays in Relation to Plato's Symposium, Alchemy, Christianity and Renaissance Neo-Platonism, Ronald Gray : essays and reviewsAuthor Laurence WrightSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 24, pp 75 –77 (2012)More Less
Best known as the author of Kafka's Castle (1956) and a number of highly regarded works on Goethe and Brecht, Ronald Gray turns his attention to Shakespeare in a rich and succinct little book, developed from his earlier article "Will in the Universe: Shakespeare's Sonnets, Plato's Symposium, Alchemy and Renaissance neo-Platonism", which appeared in Shakespeare Survey 59 (2006). Works produced by senior intellects - Gray retired from Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 1982 - can sometimes spin sugar floss at unnecessary length, or else fling themselves recklessly at momentous questions without tact or scholarly measure. (Helen Gardner's unfortunate In Defence of the Imagination, 1982, would be an apposite illustration of the latter tendency.) Shakespeare on Love avoids both dangers, holding to its challenging thesis with admirable economy.
Last / late Shakespeare?
The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare's Last Plays, Catherine M.S. Alexander (Ed.) : essays and reviewsAuthor Brian PearceSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 24, pp 78 –79 (2012)More Less
In her Introduction to this volume, Catherine Alexander discusses the difficulties of grouping together Shakespeare's "last" plays. During the twentieth century, Shakespeare's last plays have variously been described as Shakespeare's final plays, his late plays or his romances. Various conceptual problems arise with different orderings, linking late Shakespeare to different conceptual frameworks depending on which plays are included and whether the plays are seen as being more closely linked to the tragedies or comedies.
The mystery of acting
Shakespeare on Stage: Thirteen Leading Actors on Thirteen Key Roles, Julian Curry (Ed.) : essays and reviewsAuthor Victor HoulistonSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 24, pp 80 –81 (2012)More Less
It is sometimes claimed that a good actor understands a play much better than a critic; it might be more accurate to say that the actor has a fullness of understanding that is often missing in the academe, so preoccupied with its own concerns. This collection of interviews has as its great merit that it takes us on to the stage with the players; it is not a review or assessment or history of famous productions, but personal testimony to the way the plays work on the stage, how the dynamics shift, how different crises can be handled, how the players respond to the audience. At its weakest, it descends to the level of retelling the story in colloquial, often demotic English, rather like a conversation between teenagers overheard on a bus: "And then I'm, like ... and then he's, like ...". At its strongest, it reminds us of the control and discipline of the players as they submit to the demands of the text and allow a sense of the 'journey' of a character to emerge, as when Kevin Spacey explains what happens when Richard II, abdicating, says of his relinquished crown, "There lies the substance": it is the story, says Spacey, of a king becoming a man.
Author Geoffrey HaresnapeSource: Shakespeare in Southern Africa 24, pp 82 –84 (2012)More Less
In a role reminiscent of his 'prologue' in Kenneth Branagh's version of Henry V (1989), Derek Jacobi comes on screen to introduce Roland Emmerich's film Anonymous (2011). It concerns a clogged, crazy Elizabethan world where ruffs and cuffs and farthingales and things are just a part of the whole syllabub. Audience enthusiasm for theatrical events is at an all-time high, and the theatrical companies are hungry for suitable texts to perform. Ben Jonson (Sebastian Armesto) has become an increasing part of the supply chain. He is an astute, ambitious man of no pedigree, but with his head screwed on and with an eye to the next guinea.