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Globe to Globe Blog: A Yoruban Winter's Tale

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Muse of Fire producers/directors/actors Dan Poole and Giles Terera continue their guest coverage of Globe to Globe, the staging of Shakespeare’s plays in a different language courtesy of 37 visiting international theatre companies as part of the World Shakespeare Festival until 9 June 2012.

Dan and Giles were at Shakespeare's Globe to see a production of The Winter's Tale from Nigeria.

GILES: We’ve seen more Shakespeare productions this year than a Stratford widow woman.

The phone’ll ring and it’ll be big Dan saying, “What play are we seeing tonight G?”

“I’m not 100% sure, The Merry Wives Of Richard Third I think.”

DAN: We’ll meet at St Pauls and trot across the bridge, happy for the mystery and the excitement. On the other side of that bridge await the now legendary Globe Burgers, as does another production of another play from another company.

GILES: People always ask us, “Why the hell are you doing all this? Are you nuts?”

DAN: They may have a point. We can’t deny that in the last four years making this movie - Muse Of Fire we’ve done some pretty crazy things in some pretty far flung corners of the world, but ultimately the question for us is why WOULDN’T we come and see all these productions? We’ve been all over the world and now the world is coming here.

GILES: And actually it’s tougher PERFORMING the same play night after night. Try doing Hamlet for a year. That’ll send you batshit crazy quicker than you can say Koni 2012.

I never knew Shakespeare wrote an African play.

DAN: Nigerian to be precise.

GILES: Yoruba to be strictly accurate. The night is sweltering for the first time and the place is rammed. But not at 7.30 it ain’t. This is an African night baby, so a 7.30pm perfromance isn’t legally obliged to start until at least 8.03 or thereabouts. No one seems to mind this and in fact I got the feeling that it would be weird if we DID start on time. Audience and company seemed happy enough with this arrangement and audience members were still turning up puffing but dressed to kill right up until the end of the first half. Which ran at almost two hours. So it’s all good.

DAN: It’s a play about time after all. And a 100% proof jealousy.

GILES: I’d never seen the play before.

DAN Neither had I.

GILES: King Leontes invites his mate Polixenes to stay his visit in Sicilia a bit longer. Polixenes resists and then ends up giving in to hang out for a few more weeks. No sooner does this happen than Leontes gets it into his thick head that his old lady Hemione and Polixenes and are having an affair. Typical. It’s this self created jealousy that consumes Leontes and microwaves everyone else.

DAN: Apparently there are many Yoruba tales similar to this one. So the company adapted and mixed Shakespeare’s work with their own. Drums and comedy glue the whole thing together and once again the story telling is strong enough that we don’t really need the tittles after a while.

GILES: The slight majority Yoruba audience voice their approval, distain and occasionally finish off a phrase that one of the characters might speak in an erupting chorus.

DAN: The story was told by Time. Not Shakespeare’s invention I don’t think. But Yoruban. Interesting that. Time: A beautiful, tall woman in head wrap. Sometimes singing, sometimes coming towards us, other times moving away. Sometimes fast, other times slow. Always watching. Always there. Always present.

GILES: Two things there were not in this production: no dildo and no bear.

DAN: Now, in Shakespeare’s play there’s a reference made to a dildo at one point. I can’t think that they kept that bit in. Although there was one huge laugh that seemed to stop the show somewhere around the third act, and it was to do with something sexual, but I couldn’t be sure.

GILES: And the greatest stage direction in all world drama “Exit pursued by bear.” Well there weren’t no bear in this production. Which is a shame because I understand it’s usually the highlight of any Winter's Tale. But after a while I came to terms with it and my respect for the Yoruba production grew even more because - there aren’t any bears in Africa.


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