LOST PLAY: Armand Aucamp stars as Cardenio in a play of the same title which runs at the Maynardville Open-Air Theatre.

THEATRE director Roy Sargeant has defended his production of tragi-comedy Cardenio, based on a Shakespeare text, after a reviewer found the treatment of “rape scenes” too light and “disturbing”.

The play is being staged at Maynardville Theatre.

Sargeant’s production is based on a re-imagining of Shakespeare’s text by Gregory Doran, artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Tracey Saunders, who reviewed the play in Tuesday’s Cape Times, said 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.

Saunders said many high school pupils were likely to see Cardenio.

In her review she described some of the performances as excellent, but said the “almost throw-away treatment” of rape scenes was disturbing, given the despicable levels of sexual violence against women in South Africa.

Saunders noted how Sergeant’s The Taming of the Shrew had also created debate two years ago.

In a review at the time, UCT professor Sandra Young wrote: “Roy Sargeant’s staging offered little to help us reflect on the deeply disturbing undercurrent of violence inflicted on those in positions of disempowerment – women and servants, in particular.”

Yesterday gender activist Melanie Judge, who also questioned that production, said she had not yet seen Cardenio but had heard from a number of women that its representation of violence was “hugely problematic”.

Yesterday in an e-mail response, Sargeant said Saunders’ accusations that he had displayed “a cavalier attitude to women’s rights” could not be sustained.

“Let me state unequivocally that I am keenly aware of how women are abused and abominate it. But I will never distort a play to fit some contemporary commitment which has no bearing on an artistic work conceived and set in a period over 400 years ago,” he said.

“While Fernando does question himself as to whether his love-making with Dorotea was rape, he soon moves on to other considerations. The point is he has not raped Dorotea. When Fernando and Dorotea make love they are married in the eyes of 17th-century law,” he said.

Sargeant said radically re-imagining Cardenio would have betrayed the play.

“We had a text, Gregory Doran’s text. Our duty is to interpret that text as faithfully as possible... Nowhere in Cardenio, either in the play or in the production, is rape affirmed,” he said. - Cape Times

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