Shakespeare ‘comes” to SADC

Harare – William Shakespeare might have died 451 years ago, but the world-renowned wordsmith recently ‘resurrected’ and ‘visited’ the Sadc region following the successful staging of his famous play, “Hamlet” in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Malawi, Lesotho and Mozambique respectively.

The staging was part of Global Theatre’s ongoing “Globe to Globe” world tour which is aimed at reaching every single country in the world through the staging of the play as part of commemorations to mark the birth of Shakespeare, who was born on April 23, 451 years ago.

The two-year world tour started on the same date last year and thanks to the funding that the theatre house – under the directorship of their artistic director Dominic Dromgoole – received from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), theatre buffs in Southern Africa and other parts of the world were, and still are, able to view the play live on stage.

In Zimbabwe, close to a 1 000 cosmopolitan audience filled the gigantic 7 Arts Theatre venue in Avondale, Harare to witness the historic staging of “Hamlet” which is without doubt one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays.

It was an opportunity for the theatre enthusiasts to watch the play being enacted live on stage by a professional cast probably for the first time, and this was a refreshing experience since most of them were only used to reading the play in book form as part of their high school and tertiary studies.

One good thing about the production was the fact that the cast comprised of actors taken from various countries around the world, with a black actor taking the lead role of Hamlet.

There were also actors of Oriental, English and American extraction in the cast, and this blending of various races indeed fulfilled Shakespeare’s ambition of the world being one big stage.

The one-off performance served to show that the world is indeed one big village that knows no boundaries and limitations when it comes to oneness. 

It was a good thing to see a sizeable number of black theatre goers in the predominantly white audience, something which shows that blacks have an appreciation of the works of Shakespeare despite having limited their interest in his writings to the set-books that their English Literature school curriculum dictated to them.

Many people just read Shakespeare in school for the grades and not for the interest owing to the archaic Elizabethan English language he employed.

From Zimbabwe, the play “Hamlet” rolled off to Capitol Theatre in Livingstone, Zambia (April 12) for another staging; Botswana also had its own staging at Mowana Lodge in Kasane, Botswana on April 15 while in Namibia at the National Theatre the staging was on April 17.

Other countries where “Hamlet” has been staged include Lesotho, Swaziland, Malawi and Mozambique, bringing to a total close to 100 countries around the world that have been toured in Europe, the Americas and Africa.

It is hoped that with the visit to Africa, African theatre practitioners will benefit from the synergies with their partners from other parts of the world in terms of professionalism, experience and finance building capacities.

In Zimbabwe, Rooftop Promotions and ZIFM radio station, worked hand in glove with Global Theatre in the successful staging of Hamlet.

Apart from the support from UNESCO, the project is also a recipient of the Renee Stepham Award for Best Presentation of Touring Theatre which was bestowed on them by the United Kingdom Theatre Awards.

They are also recipients of the Stage International Award for 2015.  William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright who penned some popular plays like “Macbeth”, “12th Night”, “Othello” and “William Shakespeare” among numerous others.

Most of these plays are famous for the way that the playwright tackled political issues playing out during his time.

April 2015
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