Hamlet in England, Hamlet in Exile: What’s Hecuba to him, or Kupenga to them?

  • C Gordon


At the end of 2010, while London audiences flocked to see ‘a Hamlet for our age’ in Nicholas Hytner’s modern dress production (a catalogue of modern-dress ‘innovations’: media-savvy dictators, busy apparatchiks, surveillance, rioting, silenced dissidents, suited extras with conspicuous earpieces, all assembled on the National Theatre’s grand stage) a smaller audience gathered at London’s Oval Theatre to watch Kupenga Kwa Hamlet (The Madness of Hamlet), an eighty-minute two-man version after the ‘bad quarto’, performed in English and Shona. The production, which was warmly received in its first run, raises a number of questions touching the themes of this issue: questions about exile and expatriation, as well as xenophilia – in the international theatre’s embrace of foreigners (xenos) who tend to be guests, performing between two worlds.

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