Internet Shakespeare Editions

"From Farce to Shakespeare": Shakespeare on the South African Stage

Laurence Wright (Rhodes University)

An archive of performance materials from Yael Farber's   (2001), an adaptation of Julius Caesar


The history of Shakespearean performance in South Africa is scarcely separable from the wider story of the development of colonial theatre in the country. To focus exclusively on Shakespeare is to create an intellectual aberration, because the players, the theatres, the audiences and the managements were embedded in traditions of theatre and were coping with immediate socio-political complexities that virtually nullified any distinctive role for Shakespeare. There are moments, some of which form the focus of this account, when his dramatic calibre or (less often) some ideological impetus lifts him into prominence, but these are relatively rare. Sometimes he seems to have acted as a kind of theatrical talisman; more often it has been a case of 'bums on seats'. Theatre is first of all about entertainment. While few serious theatre companies down the years, amateur or professional, have resisted rising to his challenge sporadically, as far as theatre-goers are concerned he has usually been held in high, somewhat distant, regard in South Africa, as has been the case with many western-educated people for perhaps 250 years in most parts of the world.

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