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Wednesday, March 21, 2018


Amanda Seome (Kate); Anele Sibisi (widow); Lulama Nyembezi (Petruchio); Melusi Buthelezi (Hortensio) and 
Front: Nkosikhona Smith (Gremio) & Sibonelo Nzuza (Biondello)

DUT’s African Shakespeare production set to wow German Festival audiences. (Review by Caroline Smart)

In 2016, the Durban University of Technology’s drama department took a production to the Folkwang Shakespeare Festival in Germany. With conceptual design by its director Debbie Lutge, the award-winning production of Much Ado About Nothing received major acclaim.

The department has been invited back to perform at the 2018 Folkwang Shakespeare Festival, the only 2016 production to have been awarded the honour.

The festival’s choice of production this year is Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. The DUT Students will present their production alongside the Theatre Academy of the University of the Arts Helsinki, Finland; Drama Academy Ramallah, Palestine and Folkwang University of the Arts, Germany.

Lutge’s production had a few performances at the Courtyard Theatre last week before the major process begins of deconstructing and packing the set for transport to Germany.

“The conceptual design and interpretation of The Taming of the Shrew rests firmly in the notion that I am an African,” explains Lutge, referring to the fact that while the production is mainly in English, there are elements of the isiZulu, isiXhosa and Sotho languages.

The production opens with highly effective lighting revealing a fascinating set swirling with smoke and flanked by massive mesh images of elephant tusks. There are brightly-coloured structures at the back with wooden strip roofs resembling huts.

On the floor, a figure covered by a blanket eventually emerges to reveal that he is a sangoma (Wandile Nodliwa) who proceeds to dance in impressive whirls and leaps as heavily blanketed figures descend from the top of the auditorium.

Lutge’s intention here is that the cast represent male and female initiates who are coming-of-age. “Focused on an introduction to their first Shakespearean presentation the actors are metaphorically speaking Shakespearean virgins. As actors they shed their blood virginally during the circumcision,” she explains.

Shakespeare’s time-honoured story is about Baptista Minola (Trueman Myeza) who has two daughters he is anxious to marry off – Katharine (Amanda Seome) who is an aggressive, bad-tempered young woman, and Bianca Minola (Anele Sibisi) who is much better-behaved and very beautiful.

Despite a number of suitors for Bianca’s hand, Baptista is adamant that Kate is married off first. So develops a number of schemes among the suitors to find a husband for Kate.

The entire cast of 12 students is to be congratulated for putting in highly professional performances and handling the comedy and dance sequences with ease. And kudos to the technical team for an impressive presentation all round. This is a vibrant, high energy, beautifully-costumed and highly colourful production with many humorous aspects.

Notable performances come from Lulama Nyembezi as Petruchio and Mzamo Mkhombe as Tranio as well as Trueman Myeza Baptista Minola and Melusi Buthelezi as Hortensio.

The first meeting of Kate (Amanda Seome) and Petruchio was impressive in its frantic physical movement. While Seome’s angry energy is commanding, I felt it was a bit too strident and made the transition to a more amenable wife difficult to believe.

I did find that, while the acapella backing from cast members backstage provided an attractive backing, it was sometimes too loud so the actors were difficult to hear or tended to shout.

Those issues aside, I believe that this African Shakespeare Taming of the Shrew will wow the Folkwang Shakespeare Festival audiences. Congratulations to all involved. – Caroline Smart