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Review: SONGS OF SHAKESPEARE at the Maynardville Open-Air Theatre

Review: SONGS OF SHAKESPEARE at the Maynardville Open-Air Theatre

The Bard is back in Cape Town.

"Gosh, I haven't been here in years," a fellow audience member uttered with glee at Maynardville's SONGS OF SHAKESPEARE. Shakespeare in the Park is back in Cape Town, and it is a return to form for many local audience members. Sitting between the trees, underneath the starlight, Jose Dias guides the audience on a journey through the Bard's influence on the world of music, making the experience nothing short of magical.

This year, the MAYNARDVILLE OPEN-AIR FESTIVAL brags with a stellar programme; ranging from theatre, opera, ballet and live music. SONGS OF SHAKESPEARE is part of the festival's music offerings and features a supremely talented cast from Cape Town Opera: Brittany Smith, Lukhanyo Moyake, Conroy Scott, Alida Scheepers and Van Wyk Venter.

The production exemplifies that not a lot is required to transport an audience and brings you back to the basics and magic of live performance. A stage, a piano, a handful of performers, intentional technical care, and the words (or words inspired) by the Bard is all one needs to transfix an audience. The music is dramatic and sweeping in scope, but with Dias' direction and the stellar performances, the experience becomes simultaneously intimate and transcendent. In the end, the production becomes so much more than the sum of its parts, transforming into an enchanting evening.

SONGS OF SHAKESPEARE is not only a great fit for seasoned opera fans or musical enthusiasts. The programme's first half consists of excerpts from operas inspired by Shakespeare's work, providing a tapas plate of some opera greats. This is a highly accessible way to welcome opera novices (such as myself) into the majesty of the genre. The programme then travels to iconic musical numbers from KISS ME KATE and WEST SIDE STORY, demonstrating Shakespeare's legacy and eternal relevancy.

The MAYNARDVILLE OPEN-AIR FESTIVAL is truly a crown jewel of cultural experiences available in Cape Town. It is inherently magical to attend open-air performances. Being so close to nature while experiencing something that brings us closer to our humanity is an antidote to some of the ills we face day-to-day. During SONGS OF SHAKESPEARE, it sometimes felt like the trees were listening too, even occasionally harmonising with the music. It doesn't hurt that the experience is accompanied by the Evening Food Market, allowing audiences to enjoy a wide variety of food and drink before settling down for the show.

SONGS OF SHAKESPEARE and the rest of the festival's programme is perfect for a romantic date, an outing with friends, or a solo adventure to get a breather from the hustle and bustle of city life. It is also a great opportunity to introduce younger family members to a variety of arts, as it was for me when I was younger. There is only one evening left to enjoy SONGS OF SHAKESPEARE on 28 January, but if you are unlucky enough to miss it, the festival is still running until 5 March.

Maynardville, magic, music, moonlight - what's not to love?

Photo credit: Supplied

SONGS OF SHAKESPEARE runs until 28 January 2023 at the Maynardville Open-Air Theatre, Cape Town. MAYNARDVILLE OPEN-AIR FESTIVAL runs until 5 March 2023. Book at Quicket: https://bit.ly/3B5zk9t



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Klara is a Cape Town-based creative with a life-long interest in theatre and literature. In 2021, she completed her BA Honours degree in Drama & Theatre Studies at Stellenbosch University, spec... (read more about this author)


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