To be or not to be
Hasani is a member of Write to Life, the creative writing group for clients and former clients at Freedom from Torture. He blogs here about a special production of Shakespeare's 'The two gentlemen of Verona' at the Globe Theatre in London.
'Two gentlemen, both alike in dignity, in fair Verona where we lay our scene...'.
Does that sound familiar? Of course it does if you are a fan of the inimitable Bard of Avon, William Shakespeare. Warning! If you open all the pages of Shakespeare's plays you won't find the above quote though. The nearest you can find a similitude is of course Romeo and Juliet which runs like this: ..' Two households both alike in dignity...'
In my own language
I am a fan of Shakespeare even though I find his language a mountain to climb. Themes of love, jealousy, betrayal, false friendship, power, loyalty, hate - the list goes on - abound in his plays. That is the reason I decided to leave Brixton library earlier than usual on Thursday and head for the Globe Theatre to meet Alison who invited me to see one of Shakespeare's plays, 'The two gentlemen of Verona' enacted in Shona. Imagine! Shona of all languages. Shakespeare in my mother's language.
For the uninitiated, Shona is one of the languages spoken in Zimbabwe, a country south of the Sahara between two great rivers, Zambezi to the north and Limpopo to the south. Once called the jewel of Africa but now a pale shadow. Someone stole the jewels, I guess.
Want to watch one of Shakespeare's plays in another language? Check out the Globe to Globe festival.
It being my first time at the Globe Theatre had its own challenges, to say the least. I got lost on my way and, as if that's not enough, I had no credit in my pay-as-you-go phone. I think it's now two months since I last topped up my phone. When I asked for directions at Borough station my plight was made worse by my 'guide' who gave me the wrong directions.
Luckily, Alison had all the airtime in the world, and she called me just in time to direct me to the Globe. We were lucky that the play was just starting when we took our seats. As we settled, that's when I heard the above quote in the prologue.
Language is no barrier
To say it was a five-star performance would be an understatement. I cannot think of the right superlatives in English. No wonder when the curtain came down, the actors received a standing ovation for their efforts. There was a big audience, both standing and sitting. This massive attendance made me to think that language is not a barrier to art.
The whole play was performed by two actors. They made me feel like I was back home watching street theatre in 'First Street', the central street of Harare. For two people to enact more than ten roles between them, and to come up with world performances in all characters, is no mean feat. We were kept in stitches from start to finish. I remember 'Sylvia' saying in Shona, "Ndakanganwa malines angu", meaning "I have forgotten my lines". Needless to say, not many of us got this joke.
Oh, what a night. I am already thinking of Hamlet in Shona. "Kuva, kana kusava. Ndomubvunzo'. "To be or not to be? That's the question". That will be box office gold....
Globe to Globe is a carnival of stories in 37 languages and is part of the World Shakespeare Festival for the London 2012 Festival. It runs until 9 June 2012.
Liked this blog? Read Hasani's adventure in the English countryside as he takes part in the Chipping Campden Literary Festival with Write to Life.