The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0960. Thursday, 25 September 1997.
Date: Wednesday, 24 Sep 1997 16:25 -0500
Subject: UMabatha and adaptations
UMabatatha, which is subtitled "The Zulu Macbeth" just left Washington
DC, apparently bound for California, New York, New Jersey and Ohio, at
least that's what the T-shirts in the lobby said.
I was wondering what other "cultural adaptations" of Shakespeare are out
there. Somehow I began visualizing a Kabuki Lear (knowing nothing about
Kabuki, including how to spell it). Oddly enough, I saw the Zulu
Macbeth right after finally locating and reading Bohannan's "Shakespeare
in the Bush," where she highlights the difficulty in translating meaning
into the West African Culture. But Umbatha does a remarkable job of
using and retaining the story, while making it wholly African.
That being said, seeing UMabatha for the Shakespeare I assume is roughly
like seeing Verdi's Otello; unless you speak Italian, you better enjoy
the music. Unless you speak Zulu, you better enjoy drums and dancing.
If you do enjoy drums and dancing then you will be amazed, blow away
even. But the subtitles provide little more than a synopsis of the
scenes; any poetry is lost. There may have been poetry, the translated
script on sale in the lobby looked interesting, but exceeded my budget
and there definitely was drama. Macbeth/Mabatha and Lady
Macbeth/KaMadonsela's deliver monologues that argue for some human
moments that transcend culture; likewise when Macduff/Mafudu learns of
his family's death. On the other hand the first appearance of the ghost
seems almost comedic and KaMadonsela's urging of Mabatha seems almost
like nagging, without being able to understand the words.