2016 marks the 400th birthday of William Shakespeare.

The Market Theatre Lab showcased some works in a concept called uShakes on the actual birthday of this great playwright, which was headed by Clara Vaughan.

POPArt theatre will be showing these works again this week.

Celebrating Shakepeare is such an important thing. Why is Shakespeare an important foundation for all actors, for anyone who is interested in Theatre?


“Performing Shakespeare is an ultimate challenge for all actors, because there is so much to think about, Gift Nwokorie as Julietand it is so demanding on every level. There is the technical aspects od Shakespeare which is difficult; there is this complex language, layered imagery, working through verse, driving the story through language, which in South Africa we often don’t do. Then there is the emotional demand, because in his works, all the characters mean everything they say, all the time. It is absolutely committed and engaged all the time. Every thing happens for a reason, and has a purpose. The stakes are always high. It is also exhausting to perform, and to make the language accessible to an audience in today’s age, you have to have a deep understanding of the language, and of what you are saying and why you are saying it. The layered work, the excavation of what is going on, the richness of the language, and what it holds, is a huge challenge and also very rewarding, because often as actors we don’t always have the opportunity to engage with such a complex, layered text. So it is also this incredibly rewarding thing to do.”

Do you think in South Africa that actors, theatre makers forget to go back to that foundation, because we don’t see many Shakespeare works being produced in this country?


“I think we have to move away from the idea that Shakespeare is the only playwright that can be of worth, especially now with all the conversations about decolonization in the curriculum. In fact the exploration of the production that we are doing now, is how does Shakespeare relate to youngsters today; so is it relevant, and if so how are the stories relevant, how are the characters relevant, what is the function of the language now. As opposed to doing it for the sake of Shakespeare’s legacy, and the fact that he is this famous guy. Rather exploring what it can mean for you today. One of the ways we have done this, is by looking at the relationship between Shakespeare and Hip Hop. Hip Hop is such an innovative music form when it comes to language. Shakespeare is famous for his innovations with language. So there are those aspects. Joburg doesn’t give much Shakespeare, so it is exciting to get he opportunity to give people a chance to see some Shakespeare and to trust that people do still want to engage on that level, and that it is very beneficial for actors to do.”

EnsembleHow did the idea for uShakes come about?


“For the last couple of years, the Market Theatre has always celebrated Shakespeare’s birthday by doing performances in quite a casual way, as it is an important event and it gives people the opportunity to see some Shakespeare on that day. We decided to take it a bit further this year, by putting together a show that is a medley of scenes and monologues from a wide range of Shakespeare’s plays, but weaving it together in a way that tells a narrative of its own within a South African context, and doing this in a building that is not a theatre, and really trying to create an experience for the audience that really excites people about what Shakespeare can be in this place at this time. The Market Theatre feels that it is important to mark events like this, as a theatre.”

How did you then choose which shows to cover, which monologues to have…?


“It was a huge challenge, because almost everything you read is beautiful, so it is difficult to choose. What I tried to be guided by, was which stories, scenes, moments seemed to me, to speak to young people and the kind of stories that still happen. For example we have a monologue from Juliet where she is so excited about losing her virginity on her wedding night, and about this boy she is so in love with. That is a story that is so true to today’s youth. But we also have a scene of Hamlet as a young man arguing with his mother about his step father, and again that is a story we can relate to. We have also looked at what is happening in South Africa at the moment and how Shakespeare’s text speaks to that, and that some of the things happening now are reiterations of history. We have moments that reference Marikana, Fees Must Fall.. but using Shakespearean text. I was guided by the things that relate to what is happening in South Africa at the moment and things that resonate with young people as well.”

How did you choose the cast?Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 11.39.14 AM


“So I run the Market theatre Laboratory, which is the training and developmental arm of the Market Theatre, so I have been working with some of the students with the Market Lab. Some of the performers are students and some of the performers are professionals, and they are working together. The idea is to have a mentorship between students and professionals.”

Why should people see this?


“For people who know Shakespeare, they will have so much fun trying o figure out what comes from where, and how we have stitched them together. For people who don’t know Shakespeare or a little afraid of Shakespeare, I think they will enjoy how accessible we have made the characters and the language, and the story. We have been very truthful with the language, but also playful with our interpretation of how we present the work. It is a show that takes people through very comic moments, and through some very tragic moments, in the same way that Shakespeare had the ability to blend light and dark to make you laugh and cry. It takes audiences on a journey that they will find surprising.”

Do you have a favourite Shakespeare play?


“It is difficult to answer because the more you do, the more you engage with it, the more you love it because there is so much meaning. I love ‘Hamlet’. That might be my favourite. There is ‘As you like’, for its delightful, playful comedy – ‘Twelfth Night’, for the same reason.”


FOR MORE DETAILS ON uSKAKES AT POPART GO TO: http://www.bsharpentertainment.co.za/theatre/ushakes