Political thriller in dance: Qaphela Caesar! hits stages next week


Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears. Julius Caesar – the Roman dictator who was assassinated – is making his way to the State Theatre this month. Well, sort of.

Shakespeare’s classic text about honour, patriotism and friendship has been reworked as a political thriller in neo classical and contemporary dance by renowned choreographer Jay Pather and examines corruption and political power from a modern African perspective. The production, which takes place from 21 – 31 October, explores betrayal, prophesy, the power of political structures and the position of the individual within it.

Qaphela Caesar!, Pather’s dance theatre adaptation of Shakespeare’s work, is presented by Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre and promises to be a riveting take on the themes of political betrayal power and prophesy. The performing arts are powerful as a means of reinvigorating and reimagining the way in which contemporary, political and traditional South Africa can collide with the power struggles and politics of 44BC Rome.

“Qaphela Caesar! – translated as Beware Caesar! – is cautionary: to Caesar about what could happen to him, and to us about what his hold on power could cause,” says Pather.

“My interest lies in the tension between the Caesar and Brutus characters, representing the good fight of the past and the political expediency of the present as well as the lust for power, the mysterious roots of this power, the place of conscience and how all of this is dealt with in contemporary performance.”

Originally a site specific work at the Cape Town City Hall and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange this new version remade for the stage tells the story through dance, characters, text and large scale projections. The production features a 12 strong cast with Nkanyiso Kunene playing Caesar, Sandile Mkhize as Brutus, Lorin Sookool as Calpurnia and Kristi- Leigh Gresse as Octavius.

With set and lights designed by the fabulous Wilhelm Disbergen the production will be performed to the highly charged “Death and the Maiden” by Schubert and other works by contemporary composers to, as Pather puts it, “evoke a fast paced kinetic re-imagining of Shakespeare’s work while providing commentary on the politics of our time, of memory, history and future”.

Don’t miss seeing the noblest Roman of them all. The production opens at the State Theatre’s Arena Theatre on Wednesday 21 October, with shows at 20:15 on Thursdays and Fridays, and 15:15 and 20:15 on Saturdays till 31 October.

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