The full title of the play is The Tragedy of Macbeth
- 1 The original text
- 2 Translations
- 3 South African productions of the original text of Macbeth
- 4 Adaptations of the original play
- 4.1 International versions seen in South Africa
- 4.2 South African adaptations
- 4.2.1 Umabatha by Welcome Msomi
- 4.2.2 Macbeth the African opera by Brett Bailey
- 4.2.3 MacBeki - A Farce to the Reckoned With by Pieter-Dirk Uys
- 4.2.4 macbeth.slapeloos by Marthinus Basson and cast
- 4.2.5 The Okavango Macbeth by Alexander McCall Smith
- 4.2.6 The Tragedy of Macbeth by Walter Greyvenstein
- 5 Sources
- 6 Return to
The original text
Originally written c. 1600 and thought to have been first performed in 1606. Shakespeare's shortest tragedy, it was first published in the Folio of 1623, possibly from a prompt book.
It is a well-known theatrical superstition that the play is cursed and that its title is not to be spoken aloud. It is then often referred to as "The Scottish Play" instead.
Besides translations into virtually all the European languages, and a multitude of other global languages, including three of the South African languages
South African translations
South African productions of the original text of Macbeth
Always a popular work, this play has been performed in various guises in South Africa, including excerpts used as parts of Shakespeare readings and other performances by individuals such as Mrs Greig (1851 and possibly 1853).
1854: Mr Nightingale, the Port Captain, obtained the African Theatre for two (unspecified) nights in 1854, to put on scenes from Macbeth with the mariners of Simonstown, under the patronage of the Lt. Governor. (Bosman, 1928: pp. 409.)
1859: A scene from Macbeth (performed "in character" by Captain Nightingale), by the amateurs of "the Royal Naval Theatre of the H.M.S. Megaera" in the Simon's Town Theatre on 28 March, along with Fish out of Water (Lunn), Make your Wills (Mayhew and Smith) and The Thumping Legacy (Morton). (Bosman, 1980: p. 165.)
1860: Performed on the Eastern Cape border on 15 October by the Sergeants of the Regiment (North Lincolnshire Regiment of Foot), with The Camp at Chobham as afterpiece. The Macbeth cast consisted of Sergeant T. Murnane (Duncan, King of Scotland), Corporal G. Brown (Malcolm, his son), Drummer J. Murray (Donaldbain, his son), Sergeant-major T. H. Smith (Macbeth, General in the King's Army), Private A. M'Laughlin (Banquo, General in the King's Army), Sergeant J. Lydon (Macduff), Sergeant F. Edwards (Lennox), Sergeant J. Chesters (Rosse), Sergeant J. Roberts (Monteith), Sergeant J. Murray (Caithness), Drummer J. Murray (Fleance, son to Banquo), Sergeant H. Davies (Siward, Earl of Northumberland, General of the English Forces), Lance Corporal J. Davies (Young Siward, his son), Sergeant T. Coughlin (Seyton, an officer attending on Macbeth), Corporal [T. [M'Kay]] (First Murderer), Sergeant J. Murray (Second Murderer), Sergeant J. Hanrahan (Doctor), Corporal T. M'Kay (Wounded Soldiers), Sergeant T. Coughlin (Porter), Lance Corporal J. Davies (Lady Macbeth), Sergeant J. Quinn (Gentlewoman attending on Lady Macbeth), Sergeant H. Davies (Hecate), Lance Corporal J. Davies (First Witch), Sergeant J. Quinn (Second Witch), Corporal G. Brown (Third Witch). (See the entry on the North Lincolnshire Regiment of Foot for contemporaneous commentary on the performance.)
1950: Produced in Afrikaans by African Theatres in association with National Theatre Organisation, and directed by Gwen ffrangçon-Davies, with André Huguenet (Macbeth), Anna Neethling-Pohl (Lady Macbeth), M.S. du Buisson (Duncan), Johann Nell (Macduff), Gert van den Bergh (Malcolm) and Berdine Grünewald (Lady Macduff). It was staged in Johannesburg and eventually in the Alhambra Theatre in Cape Town. (Source: Leonard Schach: The Flag is Flying, 62)
1967: Produced in Afrikaans in the W.J. du P. Erlank translation of 1965. Directed by Fred Engelen, presented by University Theatre Stellenbosch in 1967, performed in the H.B. Thom Theatre, subsequently in the Van Zyl Hall, in the Cango Caves, Oudtshoorn. Décor, costumes and lighting by Elaine Aucamp and Pieter de Swardt. Tine Balder as Lady Macbeth, Fred Engelen as Macbeth, Charles Fryer as Banquo. Other members of the cast were Jocelyn de Bruyn, Johan Esterhuizen, Ben Dehaeck, Mees Xteen. The three witches were portrayed by Gretchen Holzapfel, Rahila Steyn and Bettina Camerer.
1967: Presented by René Ahrenson and Cecilia Sonnenberg at Maynardville, directed by Leslie French starring himself as Duncan, King of Scotland, Michael Atkinson as Macbeth, Michael Newell (Malcolm), Peter Curtis (Banquo), Cecilia Sonnenberg (Lady Macbeth), and others.
1972: Presented by CAPAB Drama opening at the Nico Malan Theatre on 15 May 1972, directed by Bernard Brown, with Michael Atkinson as Macbeth, Marika Mann as Lady Macbeth, aslo starring Keith Grenville, Ronald France, Phillip Birkinshaw, Michael Drin, Stephen Gurney, Christopher Prophet, Peter Curtis, John Whiteley, Pietro Nolte, John Ramsbottom, Glynn Day, Liz Dickand others. Set designed by Keith Anderson, costumes by Jennifer Craig and Penny Simpson.
1981: Directed by Philip Grout in a CAPAB production in the Nico Malan Theatre in 1981, starring Sandra Duncan as Lady Macbeth, Roger Dwyer as Macbeth, Tom Holmes, Alan Swerdlow and Sean Taylor as his sons, John Whiteley as Duncan. Others in the cast were Diane Wilson, Neville Thomas, Nigel Daly, Deon van Zyl, John Dennison, Paul Bosman, Blaise Koch, Phillip Boucher, Russel Savadier, Liz Dick, Clare Stopford and Mary Dreyer. Decor and costumes by Penny Simpson, lighting by Leon Benzakein, music by Ian Kellam. This production was also staged at the H.B. Thom Theatre on 14 April.
1990: Presented by NAPAC, first performance The Drama, the Natal Playhouse on April 4, 1990. Direction Nicholas Ellenbogen, design Peter Cazalet, lighting design Graham Eales. The cast: Sean Taylor as Macbeth, Lady Macbeth played by Brenda Radloff, John Whiteley, David Dennis, Gary D'Alessandro, Ian Hadfield, Graham Weir and others.
1990: Staged by PACT, directed by Dieter Reible, with Graham Hopkins/Jonathan Rands (Macbeth), Bill Curry (Duncan), Terence Reis (Malcolm), Wayne Robins (Donalbain), Graham Hopkins (Banquo), Jonathan Rands/Christopher Wells (Macduff), Sandra Prinsloo/Mitzi Booysen (Lady Macbeth), Mitzi Booysen/Sandra Prinsloo (Lady Macduff), Dale Cutts (Everyman I), Martin Le Maitre (Everyman II), Andre Odendaal (Witch), Embeth Davidtz (Witch), Dan Sebogodi (Witch) and others.
1992: Staged by PACOFS, directed by Desmond Hughes, with Dawid Minnaar (Macbeth), Ernst Eloff (Duncan), James van Helsdingen (Malcolm), Hannes van Wyk (Donalbain), Pieter Brand (Banquo), Zane Meas (Macduff), Anton Welman (Lennox), Nigel Kane (Ross), Nico Luwes (Menteith), Isadora Verwey (Lady Macbeth), Corien Pelt (Lady Macduff), Marga van Rooy (Witch), Christo Compion (Witch), Petro-Nelise Trichardt (Witch) and others. Decor by Johan Badenhorst and costumes by James Parker.
1996: Presented by CAPAB, directed by Marthinus Basson with Keith Grenville as King Duncan, André Roothman as Macbeth, Terry Norton as Lady Macbeth, Joshua Lindberg as Banquo, Nicholas Dallas as Donaldbain, also featuring Diane Wilson and Graham Weir and others. At the Nico in Cape Town and the National Arts Festival, 1996.
2006: an Actors Centre production directed by Mark Graham, assisted by Dorothy-Ann Gould, in 2006 in the Tesson Theatre. Carl Beukes as Macbeth, Ilanit Shapiro as Lady Macbeth, David Dennis as Duncan, David Butler as Banquo, Nick Boraine as Macduff, Sivan Raphaely Lady Macduff. Decor by Denis Hutchinson, choreography by Ivan D. Lucas.
2013 Presented in the PEMADS Little Theatre, as a joint production between PEMADS and the Port Elizabeth Shakespearean Festival. Directed by Lesley Barnard, with Gareth Bain, Helen Flax, Andrew White, Robert van den Ordel, Liz Yates, Mark Farrow , Yolande Farrow and David Roll.
Adaptations of the original play
Macbeth has been adapted numerous times and in a variety of ways over the ages, notably into an Italian opera by Giuseppe Verdi, Orson Welles's 1936 controversial "Voodoo Macbeth" and theatrical works by Heiner Müller and Charles Marowitz, as well as a range of films. Here we consider only those versions created and/or performed in South Africa.
In addition there have been a number of burlesque and/or travesty versions of the play, including works by Francis Talfourd (1847), .
International versions seen in South Africa
Macbeth Travestie by Francis Talfourd
Also referred to as Travestie of Macbeth in some cases, and called an "Extravaganza" on occasion.
A travesty or burlesque version of Shakespeare's play in two acts, written by Francis Talfourd (1828-1862) and first performed at Henley during the Regatta on June 17 1847, published by E.T. Spiers in Oxford in the same year.
South African performances
1858: Performed in the Cape Town Theatre by Sefton Parry and his company on 23 March, and referred to as an "entirely new Extravaganza". Also performed were The Lady of Lyons (Bulwer-Lytton) and with The Dancing Barber (Selby).
1861: Performed on the Eastern Cape border on May 27 and 3 June by the Sergeant's Dramatic Club (North Lincolnshire Regiment of Foot), with an opening recitation, in character, of Lord Macaulay's Lay of "Virginia," by Sergeant-Major T. H. Smith and John Dobbs (Morton) as afterpiece. The Travestie cast consisted of Colour-Sergeant P. Fox (Duncan), Sergeant G. Brown (Malcolm), Dr J. Murray (Donaldbain), Sergeant-Major T. H. Smith (Macbeth), Sergeant T. M'Kay (Banquo), Sergeant J. Lydon (Macduff), Sergeant G. E. Gill (Rosse), Private J. F. Gay (Lennox), Private W. Dansie (Family Physician), Corporal T. Smith (Family Porter), Corporal J. Davies (Lady Macbeth), Private J. Durney (Gentlewoman), Corporal J. Logan, Private W. Dansie and Private J. F. Gay (The Three Witches). "Apparitions, Murderers, Messengers, and an army of 200,00 Men (more or less) who have been expressly engaged on this occasion, - with the Enemy." (For more on contemporary responses to the performances, see the entry on the North Lincolnshire Regiment of Foot)
1867: Performed on 4 March 1867 during a Benefit Performance for the Somerset Hospital in Cape Town was arranged by the officers of the 9th Regiment, led by Captain Borton, and performed in the Theatre Royal in association with Mrs Marie Duret and Mrs Cooper. It also featured the regimental orchestra, led by Signor Bonicoli and a performance of Lend Me Five Shillings (Morton).
Macbeth (opera) by Giuseppe Verdi
An opera in four acts by Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)  it was based on William Shakespeare's play of the same name and first performed in Florence, Italy in 1847.
Shakespeare's Macbeth by Heiner Müller and Tjaart Potgieter
South African performances
1989: Presented as Shakespeare's Macbeth by CAPAB Drama, directed and produced at the 1989 Grahamstown Festival by Marthinus Basson (who also designed the costumes). Gustav Geldenhuys assisted the director. Design by Reiner Leist. Lighting by Malcolm Hurrell. Ron Smerczak as Macbeth, Antoinette Kellermann as Lady Macbeth. Also featuring Norman Coombes, Li Newman, Damon Galgut, David Clatworthy, André Roothman, Diane Wilson, Ralph Lawson, David Butler, Bo Petersen, Mark Hoeben, Pauline O'Kelly, Warrick Grier, Neels Coetzee and others. This production was also staged at the Nico Malan Theatre, opening 15 July 1989.
South African performances
South African adaptations
South African performances
1970: First presented in the University of Natal’s Open Air Theatre under the direction of Pieter Scholtz and Elizabeth Sneddon in 1970. It also travelled to London in 1972, where it played to acclaim in the *** theatre.
1998: Revived and once more taken to London
2001: played in London to acclaim once more, as part of the Celebrate South Africa Festival in London.
2016: Produced by University of Pretoria’s Drama Department as their contribution to the 400th year commemoration of Shakespeare's birth. Re-interpreted (with references to the current political situation) and directed by Josias Dos Moleele, choreographed by Luyanda Sidyia, with set design by Karabo Legoabe and costume design by Nthabiseng Makone. Members of the Usuthu community theatre groups from Atteridgeville and Mamelodi form part of the cast. Performed in the Masker Theatre, Pretoria, 20 – 23 September.
Macbeth the African opera by Brett Bailey
The opera was adapted into an African setting by Brett Bailey in 2014. "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." (Programme note at the first production)
Performance history in South Africa
2014: The premiere production of Brett Bailey's African adaptation was staged by Third World Bunfight at the Artscape in Cape Town, designed and directed by Bailey, with a cast of ten black South African opera singers, including Owen Metsileng (Macbeth), Nobulumko Mngxekeza (Lady Macbeth) and Otto Maidi (Banquo) and twelve South African musicians. Verdi's music was arranged for the African setting by Fabrizio Cassol and conducted by Premil Petrovic. Choreography by Natalie Fisher. The same production was subsequently staged in various countries across Western Europe.
2015: Staged in Australia, New Zealand, South America and Europe.
A farce broadly based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, providing a comic and satiric version of the events surrounding the deposition of Thabo Mbeki, South Africa's second president after Apartheid, using the Scottish play as a framework. Originally devised and written for production by University of Cape Town students.
South African performances
2009: First produced by the University of Cape Town Drama Department, directed by Christopher Weare in the Little Theatre, Cape Town on the 25th February, 2009, with Themba Mchunu, Lerato Motshwarakgole, Gabriel Marchand, Gerald Dhunrajah, Rudi Swart, Chase Downs, Rosa Whitcher, Mpho Kgosana, Abongile Kroza, Mandisi Sindo, Siyabulela Sikawuti.
2009: The first professional production at the Market Theatre in 2009, directed by Pieter-Dirk Uys, with Fezile Mpela, Nthati Moshesh, Lizz Meiring, Mpho Osei-Tutu, Coco Merckel, Sello Sebotsane, Kenneth Fok and others. Costumes by Thando Lobese, Set/Props. Nicholas de Klerk. Lighting Declan Randall.
macbeth.slapeloos by Marthinus Basson and cast
(Translation: "macbeth.sleepless". Also written Macbeth, slapeloos.)
South African performances
2014: Performed at the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (KKNK), produced by Hugo Theart and TEATERteater, in association with Clover Aardklop and Artscape. Directed by Marthinus Basson, with Dawid Minnaar, Anna-Mart van der Merwe, Jana Cilliers, Antoinette Kellerman, Stian Bam, Charlton George, Ludwig Binge, Edwin van der Walt en Senzo Madikane. Lighting design by Albert Snyman and choreography by Estelle Olivier.
2015: Performed at the Baxter Theatre with the same cast.
Facsimile version of the Macbeth Travestie by Talfourd (3rd edition), The Internet Arhive
Trek, 7(12):17, 1942.
Theatre programmes (CAPAB), 1972, 1981.
Newspapers clippings and photographs of the 1967 production, collected by Johan Esterhuizen.
PACT theatre programme, 1990.
PACOFS theatre programme, 1992.
Beeld, 23 February 2006.
National Arts Festival programme, 1996
Aardklop 2013 Programme
Macbeth finds new home in PE's Little Theatre Bob Eveleigh (Artslink 02/11/2014 10:20:05)
North Lincoln Sphinx Vol 1, No 3. November 1, 1860.
North Lincoln Sphinx Vol 1, No 7. June 13, 1861.
North Lincoln Sphinx Vol 1, No 8. September 30, 1861.
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