Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Maori Troilus and Cressida

I was at the Globe last night to see the second and last London performance of Troilus and Cressida in Te Reo Maori, as part of the World Shakespeare Festival.  I've refracted Shakespeare through the prism of "other" cultures quite a few times myself over the years, from the Indian Tempest to the Native American Dream, via the Mauritian Scottish tragedy...  so the whole undertaking has a lot of resonance for me - and this Maori show is particularly exciting, given our ongoing work with the London community, and my recent trip to New Zealand for Origins.

The play fits very readily into a traditional Maori context, with Greeks and Trojans as warring tribes, and a great deal of macho display, ritualised combat and haka war chants.  What's particularly exciting about the coincidence of this with Shakespeare is the way it allows for an honest rendering of heightened text, with even private moments rendered into rhetoric and accompanied by gestural language.  Like Mnouchkine's Asian-influenced Shakespeare, the production provides a way into a world removed from our own, which by its strangeness serves to comment on our own.  

It was also a great social occasion for our friends at Ngati Ranana.  At the curtain call, the haka from the stage was answered by an incredibly vigorous one from the Globe's Pit, which suddenly became a totally vibrant part of the performance.  The direct communication between actors and audience was very Shakespearean - as so often, performers from a non-naturalistic tradition revitalised the theatre space, and their audience responded in kind.  

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