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Thursday, March 17, 2016


DUT production headed for the Folkwang Shakespeare Festival 2016 in Essen-Werden offersa sustained and impressive performance by all involved. (Review by Keith Millar)
The Durban University of Technology’s Drama and Production Studies Department is nothing if not innovative when it comes to the productions they stage. Their latest offering, Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing with a decided African spin, is certainly a case in point.
The production, which is directed and designed by Prof Debbie Lutge, features a cast of 12 second and third year students, and is currently on at the Courtyard Theatre on the Campus.
Much Ado About Nothing is generally considered one of Shakespeare's most enduring plays. It combines comedy with more serious contemplations about honour, shame and court politics. The story is of young lovers Hero and Claudio, who are soon to be wed. They plan to get verbal sparring-partners and confirmed singles, Benedict and Beatrice, to admit that they too love each other and to join them in getting married. Meanwhile, the cunning Prince Don John looks set to thwart the nuptials. However, as in all romantic comedies, all ends well in the end.
The DUT production has been invited to perform at the Folkwang Shakespeare Festival 2016 in Essen-Werden in Germany as part of an innovative global exchange/research programme by Folkwang Universit√§t der K√ľnste to honour the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.
They will join productions from Krakow Poland, Melbourne Australia and Germany in this project.They all perform exactly the same play, uniquely interpreted by the different directors. They then merge and produce the same Shakespeare play with all the directors and international casts collaborating.
The need to travel light and to save on costs has, I believe, played into the production’s hands. It resulted in Prof Lutge, along with former student Marcia Pesschke, developing the excellent idea of using cardboard boxes which are painted with bright, fluorescent quasi-Ndebele motifs for the set. With the acclaimed Michael Broderick’s (another ex-student) innovative lighting design highlighting this set, it creates a beautifully bright, versatile distinctly-African backdrop.
The costumes are a blend of contemporary and traditional and also do their part in setting the African feel of the production. Plaintive guitar playing and vocal harmonising (workshopped by the cast) are used to create an effective atmospheric audio background, while gumboot dancing and pantsula also make an appearance.
The performances by the entire 12 member cast were most satisfying.Other than the occasional word or phrase in Zulu the original language is used in the production. It cannot be easy for these actors, whose home language is not English, to tackle the sometimes confusing Shakespearean English. However, they accomplish this with aplomb and their cadence and timing of their delivery was spot on.
Prof Lutge used a production technique whereby the front of the stage was used for the action while in the background slow-motion storytelling is carried out by those not in the scene. This resulted in the whole cast being on stage for most of the production. It was a sustained and impressive performance by all of them.
Much Ado About Nothing runs until March 18 nightly at 19h00 at the Courtyard Theatre (Steve Biko/Mansfield Road). Thereafter it travels to Germany. On returning, the show has been invited to feature as part of the Uhuru Festival at Wushwini.
For more information contact the Departmental Secretary, Lebohang Sibisi on 031 373 2194 or email: – Keith Millar