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date: 26 November 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The force of ‘Shakespeare’ as a source of cultural authority in South Africa has been extensively discussed. This chapter looks at a phenomenon that is less often acknowledged: the persistence of directorial power in post-apartheid Shakespearean performance. Renewed ties with British theatre after apartheid brought actors and directors trained in a more actor-centred approach into dialogue with local theatre practitioners, but this did little to shift South African Shakespeare away from dependence on spectacle and on directors as inheritors of institutional power. Focusing on South African performances in 2011 and 2012 across the different institutional spaces in which Shakespeare is made to work (theatres, schools, and prisons), in productions that promise to create democratic, liberating, ‘open’ Shakespeare, one finds both defiance and a striking restatement of the status quo. While connections with British theatre give authority and legitimacy to post-apartheid performances, the potential for ‘open Shakespeare’ has been squelched.

Keywords: Key terms, South Africa, post-apartheid performance, British theatre, actor-centred approach, institutional power, ‘open’ Shakespeare, schools, prisons, defiance, status quo

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