Comedy Shakespeare all shaken up on Festival stages

Shakespeare all shaken up on Festival stages

Those unfamiliar with the intricacies of Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter need not fear.  The business of making the Bard attractive to today’s Festival audience is prominent in the minds of directors.

“Hamlet is just a guy, dealing with things in his head and heart,” said Tara Notcutt, director of Lord Hamlet. In Notcutt’s unorthodox interpretation of this classic, actor Clayton Boyd is concerned less with the sexual misdemeanor of his character’s mother and uncle, than the political woes of the country. Robin Malan collaged Shakespeare’s Hamlet like a jigsaw puzzle, an exercise he called “extraordinary”.  Instead of using chronological order, he said he flowed from one issue to another. In the one-man show, Boyd expresses himself through Hamlet’s classical words, in an endeavour to encompass the scope of the original. The result is what Malan referred to as “Hamlet crystallised”.

Fans of Shakespeare in the original form will be delighted to sample Fred Abrahamse’s rendition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, while the adaptation, Macbeth and Quo, performed by the St Thomas Aquinas School Drama Club (STAS), presents the English Bard with a modern, South African flavour.

The scripts of both Lord Hamlet and Macbeth and Quo have been crafted to speak to audiences unfamiliar with the intricacies of Shakespearean language. Those well-versed, however, will recognise references and parallels and glean a greater insight into the productions.

“It is nice to have the classics, but in an accessible form,” said Retha Jones, the STAS teacher in charge of Macbeth and Quo. “The play attempts to make Shakespeare accessible to those who are not necessarily academics of Shakespeare.”

Notcutt said her interpretation of Hamlet incorporates a “definite South African flavour”, with direct references to South African political figures. Despite this, she said, the texture of the play makes it appealing to all nationalities. “It will appeal to anyone who has a corrupt government,” she said.

It is important to keep classical theatre alive, added Notcutt. “The fact that these texts are still used today is a testament to their greatness. Shakespeare is a rite of passage, for actor and director alike.”

Kate-Lyn Moore

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