Students did well to grapple with the complex themes and bold language and characters. (Review by Verne Rowin Munsamy)
Last night I made my way to the Sneddon Theatre at UKZN, to bask in the writings of one of the greatest playwrights of our history, William Shakespeare. Forming part of a trio of plays presented by DUT, AFDA and UKZN in this #ShakespeareMustFall? Festival, The Past is Prologue (a line from The Tempest) is a selection of scenes, writings and made-up dialogue from the Bard’s epic stories, sonnets, themes and characters.
Directed and devised by Tamar Meskin with Devaksha Moodley, Kamini Govender and Donna Steel, the reworked and reshaped dialogues and scenes are structured to parallel a modern-day society and present scenes that could mimic our current struggles like: fees must fall, war and violence. We were treated to scenes from Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Othello, Macbeth, The Tempest, Hamlet and more.
It was a feast of flavour but I was still left hungry for a full-length play. I felt that the scene selection suited the concept and message that the directors wanted to propel to the audience, but the same message could have been told to better effect by one of Shakespeare‘s full-length plays.
The students did well to grapple with the complex themes and bold language and characters. Stand-out performances were offered by Zibu Mkhize (a modern day student), Sfundo Sosibo (Mr Shakespeare) and Sboniso Msimango (Macbeth). While many of the students offered quality performances, they lacked the stamina for the two-hour length of the show. I felt that two hours without an interval was a little overbearing and indulgent. The audience start to get restless and the actors tend to lose focus. The second hour needed more attention and detail. I enjoyed the fusion of styles but some of it reshaped the text beyond meaning.
The set by Rogers Ganesan was a marbled effect platform with multiple levels which served well to host a cast of about 30. The lighting design by Tina le Roux is exquisite. The most gripping for me were the visuals, designed by Devaksha Moodley, which captured the essence of every scene. The script is well put-together but it was simply too long, some scenes like the ones from Macbeth, went on for far too long, losing its impact.
A valiant effort from all who had their hands in the production, it’s good to take risks in theatre and try new approaches to old writings, some of it works and some of it doesn’t ... all the world’s a stage, each man has his part to play.
There is one more performance tomorrow afternoon at 15h00 at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre. Tickets at the door. - Verne Rowin Munsamy