Wednesday, 20 March 2019

The 9th Shakespeare Schools Festival South Africa Begins April 16 and will be dedicated to liberation leader Sonny Venkatrathnam who passed away on 15 March at the age of 84.

This year the 9th Shakespeare School Festival South Africa (SSF SA) kicks off on 16 April 2019 and will be dedicated to Sonny Venkatrathnam who passed away on 15 March at the age of 84.

The festival will open with Matthew Hahn’s play The Robben Island Shakespeare, which is based on Sonny’s time on Robben Island, performed by former Vista Nova High School Learners and young actors from the Educasions group.

 During his incarceration on Robben Island, Venkatrathnam, an apartheid freedom fighter, 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.'

Leading up to the 2019 festival, organiser Kseniya Filinova-Bruton and Festival MC Tafara Nyatsanza, who recently performed in Richard lll at Maynardville, will be hosting coaching workshops for Learners from various participating schools. Nyatsanza will also MC the festival. Participating schools involved in workshops include Darul Arqam Islamic HS, Chris Hani HS, Westlake Primary School, Leiden HS, Vista Nova HS and the Lalela Project.  The SSF SA is an education program aimed at improving language and social skills through the Performing Arts. It is Educape's flagship initiative that was launched in 2010 by Kseniya Filinova-Bruton with the objective of strengthening the link between the Arts and education. Since inception, the SSF SA has gone from 20 to 2000 participating youth and Learners across the Western Cape, Gauteng, Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Eastern Cape.

Staging a Shakespeare play in a professional theatre is a challenge to be relished and the SSF SA is an ideal way for young people seeking to explore their potential in a fun, developmental way, simultaneously making their theatre debut on a professional stage in a non-competitive environment. The SSF SA is fully interactive and provides guidance and the resources through scripts, training, frame work and feedback that equips Learners and Educators to successfully direct and perform Shakespearean plays from the first line to the final bow.  Schools get to prepare and perform 30-minute abridged versions of the plays and those taking part this year Western Cape schools are participating from all over the Western Cape Metropole and as far afield as Hermanus. 31 schools in total will be taking part in the SSF SA in Cape Town. After the breakthrough performances last year came from In 2018 the De La Bat School for the Deaf, using South African sign language (SASL), and the Pioneer School for the Visually Impaired, delivered ground breaking performances of Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth respectively. Both schools will performance again at the SSF, at the Baxter.
This is the ninth time that Artscape has hosted the SSF SA and the fourth year that the event will be held at the Baxter Main Theatre.

Performances, open to the public, are from 16 to 18 April at Artscape and then at the Baxter Theatre from 13 to 18 May. On 17 and 18 May, during the SSF SA season, the complete works of the Robben Island Bible will be on exhibition in the Baxter Theatre foyer.  Performances at Artscape and the Baxter start at 7pm with booking through Computicket or Baxter booking office on 0216803989 or through Webtickets. For more info please email or visit