MACBETH Opera Run 23-26 April at Artscape

MACBETH Opera Run 23-26 April at Artscape

In this radical take on Verdi's MACBETH, conceptualised, designed and directed by Brett Bailey, Shakespeare's story of ambition, treachery and witchcraft is set in the Great Lakes region of Central Africa, amongst the wars and ruthless exploitation that tear this invisible corner of the world apart. Within a milieu of multinational double-dealings, ethnic conflict, brutal militia, 'blood minerals' and glittering Chinese imports, a Congolese warlord and his ambitious wife murder their leader and unleash atrocities on the crumbling African province that they seize.

MACBETH has been arranged for 10 black South African opera singers and 12 South African musicians (5 strings, 5 wind, 2 percussion), by Fabrizio Cassol who has previously composed music for Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Alain Platel, Faustin Linyekula, Luc Bondy and Philippe Boesmans. The conductor for MACBETH is Premil Petrovic, an award-winning Berlin-based Serbian with a great reputation, a penchant for extraordinary projects, and a wealth of experience in Croatia, Serbia, Germany, Austria and Portugal. The leads in the production are Owen Metsileng as Macbeth, Nobulumko Mngxekeza as Lady Macbeth and Otto Maidi as Banquo. MACBETH will be lit by Felice Ross, best known for her work with Polish director, Krzysztof Warlikowski. Choreography is by Natalie Fisher.

Bailey is a prolific South African artist and the director of Third World Bunfight (TWB), a theatre company that has maintained its position at the forefront of South African performance throughout its eighteen year history. The company is directed Bailey and managed by Barbara Mathers. TWB has a mission to create and present groundbreaking, multi-layered, deeply considered performance and installation works of excellence, both locally and internationally. Works that show the beauty, the wonder, the darkness and the tragedy of our world. Bailey's works such as EXHIBIT B, ORFEUS and BIG DADA have brought him renown on European stages. In Khartoum in March this year, Bailey delivered the UNESCO 2014 World Theatre Day speech that he wrote. Translated into 40 languages, previous World Theatre Day messages have been delivered by Nobel Laureate Dario Fo, John Malkovich and Dame Judy Dench.

Of his MACBETH, Bailey says: "The first impulse to make this work arose from a desire to locate MACBETH within an African context, as I did with the dramas of MEDEA and ORFEUS. I am fascinated with how stuff (religions, philosophies, cultural modes and material goods) is washed up or dumped on the shores of Africa and is appropriated, infiltrated, modified and put to new uses. I wanted to take Verdi's opera of witchcraft, tyranny and the will for power, and treat it in the same way: to appropriate it, infiltrate it, modify it. I imagined the opera as a nineteenth century architectural monolith - like a colonial cathedral - lost in the forests or grasslands of Central Africa; a memento of a prior era, now crumbling, shot full of bullet holes, sprayed with graffiti, collapsing under the weight of vines. Themes that recur in my works are the hidden atrocities committed in Africa by rapacious European colonial powers; the ruthless exploitation of the resources of the 'developing world' by multi-nationals; the forgotten 'underworld' in which millions of people toil in misery to supply goods and raw materials for the markets of the rich world; and the instability fuelled in these countries by expedient 'Super Powers'."

He continues: "As a South African artist who has travelled and worked in many African countries, these themes are very close to home. I have been aware of the catastrophe in the Eastern Congo for many years now: its scale and its complexity. It is striking to me that so few people outside of the region even know about it: because it smoulders in a dark patch somewhere in Central Africa (rather than in the Middle East for instance), it is almost invisible. For MACBETH I created a troupe of refugee-performers from the conflict zones of the Eastern Congo. They had discovered an old trunk of paraphernalia (musical scores, costumes, etc.) from an amateur company that had performed Verdi's opera in the region during the colonial period: a fascinating link between the present situation and the horrors that were perpetrated in the name of profit by the Belgian administration. The troupe used the MACBETH material that they found in the trunk to tell the story of the plight of their country today. Like the tens of thousands of Africans who flock to Europe every year in small boats or on planes, but who are seen as problematic, nameless statistics, these performers have a desperate story to tell. They are emissaries from the Great Lakes region, come to put their story firmly on the world stage."

After the season at Artscape, MACBETH travels to Kunsten Festival des Arts /KVS (Brussels), Operadagen (Rotterdam), Wiener Festwochen (Vienna), Le Printemps des Comediens (Montpellier), Theaterformen Festival (Braunschweig), The Barbican (London), Festival d'Automn (Paris), Le Maillon (Strasbourg), Maria Matos Teatro Municipal (Lisbon Portugal) and Théâtre Garonne (Toulouse France).

MACBETH is at the Artscape Theatre from 23 to 26 April at 8:15pm. Tickets cost R120 to R160 via Computicket or 0214217695.

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