Shakespeare festival

The ninth Shakespeare School Festival South Africa (SSF SA) kicked off yesterday, April 16, at the Artscape and Baxter theatres.

This year’s festival will be dedicated to freedom fighter Sonny Venkatrathnam, who died on March 15, at the age of 84.

During his incarceration on Robben Island, Mr Venkatrathnam smuggled in a copy of The Complete Works of Shakespeare, disguised it as a Bible, and passed it between a number of prisoners, including Nelson Mandela.

Many of the inmates marked their favourite passages in the book, and Mandela’s signature was found next to a quote from Julius Caesar: “Cowards die many times before their deaths, the valiant never taste of death but once.”

The festival will open with the play by Matthew Hahn titled The Robben Island Shakespeare, performed by former Vista Nova High School pupils, and actors from the Educasions group.

Leading up to the 2019 festival, organiser Kseniya Filinova-Bruton and festival MC Tafara Nyatsanza, will be hosting coaching workshops for pupils in various schools, including Vista Nova, Darul Arqam Islamic and Chris Hani high schools, Westlake Primary School and the Lalela Project.

The SSF SA is an education programme aimed at improving language and social skills through the performing arts.

Schools get to perform 30-minute abridged versions of the plays, and 31 schools will be taking part in the SSF SA in Cape Town.

Performances are from Tuesday April 16 to Thursday April 18, at Artscape, and from Monday May 13 to Saturday May 18, at the Baxter.

The complete works of the Robben Island Bible will be on exhibition in the Baxter Theatre foyer, on Friday May 17 and Saturday May 18.

Performances at Artscape and the Baxter start at 7pm, with booking through Computicket for the Artscape and Webtickets, or at 021 680 3989 for the Baxter.