UKZN’s Drama and Performance Studies Discipline within the College of Humanities is hosting the highly anticipated SHAKESPEAREmustFALL? Theatre Festival which started on 20 September and continues until 2 October at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.
The Festival will also host a colloquium featuring keynote addresses by theatre and performance art stalwarts Welcome Msomi and Chris Thurman from 30 September to 1 October at Studio 5 on the Howard College campus.
This event is part of the broader Decolonising Shakespeare? Contestations and Re-imaginings for a Post-Liberation South Africa, coinciding with the global commemorations of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death.
The two-week student Theatre Festival highlights the work of young and emerging artists in KwaZulu-Natal, providing a space for student work to be showcased and celebrated.
Featuring productions from UKZN (Howard College), the Durban University of Technology (DUT) and AFDA Durban, the Festival seeks to engage with Shakespeare in a way that reflects the impact and presence of his plays in the contemporary South African context, particularly for young people.
‘Shakespeare, after all, wrote his plays to be performed and, while the politics of Shakespeare may be contentious, his works remain the most performed plays in the world,’ said UKZN Lecturer and Festival Director, Ms Tamar Meskin.
‘We want to find ways to (re)explore and (re)imagine those works in our “decolonised” space. What is also certain is that his works offer a potentially unique perspective on the world we live in today. This Theatre Festival also explores that perspective in our unique South African context.’
Meskin said there was a long and storied tradition of Shakespeare at UKZN. One of the most important of those stories is Welcome Msomi’s groundbreaking Umabatha, first staged in 1970 at the Open Air Theatre, marking the first presentation in South Africa of an isiZulu version of a full-scale Shakespearean production.
‘Umabatha went on to play to a global audience, has since been published and is recognised as the seminal beginning point of Africa’s engagement with decolonising Shakespeare. Since then, Drama and Performance Studies have continued to engage with the work of perhaps the most contentious playwright in the history of English theatre,’ said Meskin.
Msomi will deliver the keynote address on 30 September, made possible through support from the Department of Arts and Culture and the Living Legends Legacy Project.
Between 2001 and 2010, UKZN has presented an annual Shakespeare Festival, attracting more than 9 000 school learners to see productions ranging from A Midsummer Night’s Dream to Romeo and Juliet to Twelfth Night and The Winter’s Tale.
‘The goal in each production was to make Shakespeare accessible for a multicultural, young, and uniquely South African audience. Whether it was a tokoloshe Puck, a gangster Romeo, a Jimi Hendrix Orsino, a hip-hop Oberon, or a football fan Dromio, the emphasis in all of the productions was to explore what gives Shakespeare’s works their theatrical magic,’ said Meskin.
This year’s UKZN production, titled The Past is Prologue, is taken from The Tempest and is ambiguous: it offers both the potential to abandon the past in favour of the glorious future waiting ahead, but also may point to the importance of the past in shaping both the present and future.
‘The production plays with this ambiguity in seeking to “decolonise” Shakespeare by reinscribing his works with newly imagined meanings, viewed through newly-created lenses, which can speak to the ethos of our time,’ added Meskin.
#SHAKESPEAREmustFall? runs from 20 September – 2 October at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre with performances starting at 18h30. Tickets are R40 for adults, and R20 for scholars, students and block bookings over 10.
Tickets may be reserved through Claudette Wagner at phone (031) 26 -3133 or email: email@example.com They are also available at the door an hour before the performance.
SCHEDULE OF PERFORMANCES:
DUT: Much Ado About Nothing
Directed by Debbie Lutge
Thursday 22nd September @ 18h30
Friday 23rd September @ 18h30
Saturday 24th September @ 18h30
AFDA: Shakespeare’s Women – The Space Between
Written by Janet van Eeden
Directed by Clinton Marius
Monday 26th September @ 18h30
Tuesday 27th September @ 18h30
UKZN – HOWARD COLLEGE: The Past is Prologue
Devised by Tamar Meskin, with Kamini Govender, Devaksha Moodley, and Donna Steel
Directed by Tamar Meskin
Friday 30th September @ 18h30
Saturday 1st October @ 18h30
Sunday 2nd October @ 15h00