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Globe to Globe Blog: Another take on Shona Verona

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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 The Two Gentlemen of Verona performed in Shona by a company from Zimbabwe (for another take on this production, click here).

GILES: There’s a pigeon in the theatre. Repeat, there is a pigeon in the theatre. High up in the thatches in the third tier of punters. There are generally two things that any truly great performance at the Globe must include, a tourist fainting and a pigeon stealing the show. One out of two aint bad. Well half out of two. Hardly anyone else notices the pigeon. It’s too high up in the lofts. Flapping about drunkenly. The tourists sitting near it notice. It flaps towards them and they flap it away and all of a sudden they’re all flapping. The bird pigeon and the human pigeons.

My eye is cast upwards to the pigeon play going on up there in the Gods. I wonder if that pigeon is the great great great great great great great grandson (or daughter) of the pigeon that flew down and crapped on the stage during the original production of Macbeth. This is of course an event that I make up as I sit there, but it could have happened and that’s the important thing.

DAN: Meanwhile onstage another farce is taking place. Two Gentlemen Of Verona. Zimbabwe.

GILES: My father was from Zimbabwe and I don’t know the play at all so I was excited to get in there and check it out. It’s one of those Shakespeare’s where there’s lots of crossed purposes and confused exchanges. Love letters being written and given to the wrong person. He wants her, but she wants the other one, who wants someone else. With hilarious consequences.

DAN: Hard enough to follow, but when there’s only two actors playing all the parts AND it's in Shona it get even more knotty and dazzlingly bewildering. Like some ancient Chinese riddle game. It’s a bold choice to make it a two hander, one that actually adds to the audience's experience of the story. We are in danger of being as confused as the two gentlemen are. It’s supposes to be a comedy and this production certainly is that. What Denton Chikura and Tonderai Munyevu do is start by emerging from out the trap door, peering at us as if they’ve just set foot on Mars. Walk to the back of the stage and hang various garments on a line that they’ve strung up.

Whenever they change character they go to the washing line and grab a garment that represents that character. Simple enough but it works. There is always a cross-dressing opportunity in these productions and all the companies pounce on it. The audience roars and we all share a point. Someone puts on a dress, places his hand on his hip, rolls his eyes and speaks in a high voice and it’s like a goal is scored. What these companies shrewdly realise and take advantage of is the fact that good storytelling is 70% visual.

GILES: People keep asking us, what’s it like to see all those productions when you can’t understand a word they’re saying. Answer: awesome. You know you’re not going to understand the words and so you can enjoy the story.

DAN: In a way the experience is truest when you see several productions because you start to see the universality of the plays. Who gives a shit what language it’s in or who’s acting in it - men, only women, children, one man show - the story comes through loud and clear. You don’t have to come from the Home Counties to do these plays. You have to be a good storyteller.

GILES: Ben Johnson famously said of Will Shakespeare “He was not of an age but for all time.” I’d like to say he was not for a nation but for all the world. This festival shows just that and we’ve yet to see a production that wasn’t enjoyable. What you end up watching is not just the characters struggles and triumphs but you see the actors also. It’s a joy to see how many of them kiss the stage at the end.

Audience Member Of The Night ‐ Woman sitting in front of us taking pictures on her phone gets told off by one of the storm troopers. Puts her phone down and when the storm trooper’s gone starts talking pictures again. Storm trooper returns and tells her off again. Phone down. Storm trooper goes. More pictures. Storm trooper returns pointing this time. Woman's phone starts to ring. Woman laughs nervously. Storm trooper confiscates phone. General silent approval.


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