THEATRE director Roy Sargeant has made changes to a controversial scene in his production of tragi-comedy Cardenio, following a reviewer criticising his treatment of “rape scenes”.

Sargeant’s production of Cardenio is being staged at Maynardville open-air theatre and is based on a re-imagining of Shakespeare’s text by Gregory Doran, artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

A week ago in a review of the play in the Cape Times, Tracey Saunders said while some of the performances were excellent, the “almost throwaway treatment” of rape scenes was disturbing, given the despicable levels of sexual violence against women in South Africa.

She had told the Cape Times that in one scene a character pays off another character’s servant, goes into her room, rapes her and then in a soliloquy says she had not protested.

Gender activist Melanie Judge said while she had not yet seen Cardenio, she had heard from a number of women that its representation of violence was “hugely problematic”.

Yesterday Sargeant told the Cape Times he had adapted the scene in question.

“I’ve just made it clearer for the audience. It depicts the context clearer,” he said.

Sargeant said people had misread the scene and as a result of Saunders’ comment, he had made changes to it.

Last week Sargeant said Saunders’ accusation that he had displayed “a cavalier attitude to women’s rights” could not be sustained.

Yesterday Saunders, who was yet to see the production with the changes, said she was pleased Sargeant had “considered the impact of the rape scene and reconsidered his directorial decisions and communication with audience members”.

“Images of violence and rape will always form a part of the performing arts and as in other media how they are presented to audiences should be done with care.

Hopefully this discussion will be a catalyst for further discussion amongst audience members and theatre makers.”

The debate around the production reached Twitter, with some saying they did not understand the controversy, others that it made them want to see Cardenio.

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