Positionality and Performance: Staging Antony and Cleopatra for South African schools in the context of decolonisation imperatives

  • Néka Da Costa


Since the start of the #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall campaigns in 2015–16, decolonisation has been a prominent topic in the South African academy. Yet practical guidance as to how one might start to apply decolonisation and transformation strategies tangibly, both in education and pedagogy – and, more precisely for the purposes of this article, in theatre and performance spaces – has been in short supply. By adopting a dialogic approach which prioritises the voices of her collaborators, the author contextualises and critiques some of the key creative, philosophical and pedagogical strategies employed while rehearsing and performing a school’s touring production of Antony and Cleopatra for the National Children’s Theatre in 2018. Shakespeare is a symbol of colonial and imperial legacies, and the relevance of his work in both English and Performance Studies curricula merits scrutiny, as does the way in which we discuss, teach, perform and value it. Through an unfolding acknowledgement of the author’s own positionality in relation to the text and its performance in a contemporary South African context, this article exemplifies some of the contradictions and productive discoveries of the Antony and Cleopatra process, in the hopes of contributing to a more action-based approach to decolonisation and social justice in practising the arts and in arts education.