Theatre Review: ShakesMod – Bard And Beyond, Or Scene And Heard

November 10, 2021

[vc_row][vc_column width=”3/4″][vc_column_text]


ShakesMod / Directed by Steven Feinstein / The Lesedi, Joburg Theatre, Braamfontein, Johannesburg


Both an end-of-year showcase for the Indigo View Advanced Actors Academy and a full, if fragmented, standalone theatrical production, ShakesMod combines, as its title suggests, one act comprising scenes from a number of Shakespeare plays and a second featuring excerpts from contemporary works (including Athol Fugard’s Nongogo) and dramatic monologues.

Featuring a large cast – 20 performers in all – who are all given a chance to display what they’ve learned and the skills they’ve developed. In the context, it’s evident that certain actors have been paired or grouped together to complement each other’s style, with others given the chance (or challenge) of a solo spot. For some, the language, phrasing and pacing of Shakespeare’s writing doesn’t yet sit entirely comfortably – that is often the case with much more experienced performers, to be fair – and the variety of accents on show occasionally makes the faster passages tricky to follow. But the quality of the material – and the way the 400-year-old subject matter still resonates – is coupled with some smart staging (Juliet is on a catwalk above the audience’s heads and to one side for the balcony scene) to make the work engaging.

The second act is more accessible, with most of the actors looking more comfortable in situations and using words closer to their own experience. Hopefully some of the topics are not too close to home, as many of the scripts for the scenes deal with abuse and other types of conflict in relationships and different cultural scenarios. Some material is clipped and nuanced, some is more introspective, and there are mildly worrying (in terms of the state of the world reflected in the pieces) threads of anger and loneliness running through the act as a whole. From an audience perspective, its interesting to watch these scenes as unconnected works, without – unintentionally, but it happens – considering their place in a larger narrative you don’t necessarily know anything about. There is, however, the distraction of the moving and adjusting of props between every scene, which also adds heavily to the overall running time. Again, in the context of a showcase, this makes plenty of sense, but it does mean some stamina is required.

In all, there is plenty of promise here, and theatre fans can likely look forward to seeing some of these academy graduates on the stage in the future. And for audience members interested in the process of acting, looking for signs of how direction and other input have affected the performances is an interesting add-on to the experience.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_widget_sidebar sidebar_id=”default_sidebar”][/vc_column][/vc_row]