Speaking to Tonight, the director of the production, Sean Redpath, said the Umoya Shakespeare company had been formed to bring classical productions like this to life, and help them find relevance in contexts like ours.
“South Africa has never, to my knowledge, had a classical theatre company, and by that I mean a theatre company dedicated to performing classical works and, in particular, Shakespeare’s plays.
“We have had theatre companies that have performed his plays, but not one that specialised in Shakespeare to the extent that a company like the Royal Shakespeare Company does,’’ Redpath said.
Redpath also plays the role of Macbeth in the production and is joined by Sarah Richard, who plays Lady Macbeth, Miles Petzer, who plays five characters from the production, and Guy Trask, the youngest of all the performers, who plays Banquo and the doctor who comes in at the end.
Redpath said they chose to showcase Macbeth because of their belief in the importance of Shakespeare in the theatrical landscape.
“His plays have stood the test of time for more than 400 years and have probably been performed more than the plays of any other playwright, not only in English but in all the major languages of the world. This is clearly a testimony to the ongoing relevance of his plays and their power to reach and inspire audiences from all walks of life,” he said.
Redpath said the works had the ability to transcend race, socio-political issues, and spoke to the “essential experience of being human”, hence the universality of the work’s themes.
Quizzed on whether Shakespeare had relevance on local stages, Redpath said the production would appeal to audiences because “our production of Macbeth is set in a dystopian world, not past, not present, and not quite future”.
“Although we hear the names of regions of Scotland, these won’t necessarily conjure up images of the Scotland we know. But this doesn’t matter as the play is not about medieval Scotland, but about a man named Macbeth and what he decides to do when he receives a prophecy that he will one day become king.
“Shakespeare’s plays are by no means limited to the time and place in which they are set. Since the story and the conflicts of the characters are what people will actually relate to, time and place are of secondary importance.
“Our primary focus is to engage the audience in the lives and conflicts of the characters, no matter where or when the play is set,” he said.
For those who have only experienced Macbeth as a book, Redpath said seeing the Umoya Shakespeare Company’s production would allow the characters to come to life.
“Our primary objective is to entertain, to captivate our audience by bringing the play to life in a way that is dynamic and engaging, to show the characters as real people with real-life problems and see how they overcome those problems or how, as in the case of Macbeth, those problems eventually destroy them,” he said.
* Macbeth is showing at the PopArt Theatre in Maboneneg from October 5 to 8. Visit POPArt: Theatre for more details.