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Acting Out of Discontent : Satire, Shakespeare, and South African Politics in Pieter-Dirk Uys’s MacBeki : A Farce to be Reckoned with and The Merry Wives of Zuma

enPublié en ligne le 23 novembre 2017

Par J. Coplen Rose

Abstract

This article analyzes South African satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys’s rewriting of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and The Merry Wives of Windsor. Exploring the social and political critiques contained in MacBeki and The Merry Wives of Zuma, this article argues both plays should be read as postcolonial appropriations of Shakespeare – works that alter the original plays’ language and themes for new, local purposes. Uys’s works target the legacy of colonization in South Africa by deriding neocolonial abuses and the characters who continue to revere colonial systems of power and control. In doing so, his deployment of Shakespeare eschews reaffirming the kind of European cultural hierarchy that the British playwright is often associated with in decolonizing states. In this fashion, Shakespeare’s plays are decolonized by mocking their historic elevation, while at the same time being redeployed to critique national crises such as corruption and continuing economic disparity. However, while these two plays illustrate Shakespeare’s usefulness in critiquing national crises, they also reveal the precariousness of using satire for such purposes in the quickly-shifting political landscape of contemporary South Africa. This article concludes by questioning whether Uys’s two satires were outdone by the events he was attempting to critique.

1Reiterating one of his more iconic quotations, South African satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys states in his introduction to MacBeki : A Farce to be Reckoned with that, while responding to President Thabo Mbeki’s failure to effectively address the HIV/AIDS crisis in South Africa, his “fury and frustration had to be filtered through that essential definition of 49 % anger and 51 % entertainment.”1 Although Uys has repeatedly used this statement to describe his satirical style, in this instance his words carry a heavier meaning than usual. Accusing Mbeki of a “fatal collaboration with his Minister of Health,” Uys attributes the politician’s denial of the link between HIV and AIDS to “the unnecessary deaths of over 350,000 South Africans in the last seven years.”2 Uys’s response to this situation, and South Africa’s political landscape overall, utilized his strengths as a satirist to mix laughter with disdain in two appropriations of William Shakespeare : MacBeki (2009) and The Merry Wives of Zuma (2012).

2 In many ways MacBeki and The Merry Wives of Zuma resemble Uys’s other plays. Both contain a strong emphasis on bureaucratic failures, political hypocrisy, and the kind of clever wordplay Uys is renowned for – in this instance describing Mbeki’s shortfalls as “Mbekivellian intrigues.”3 And yet, from the outset, the two plays are also quite different from the rest of Uys’s oeuvre. Foremost, as Uys identifies in “A Playwright’s Note,” after forty years of producing theatre MacBeki offered him a unique opportunity to sit down and watch one of his plays being rehearsed for the first time.4 In addition to the critical distance that this process provided, an even greater shift is the playwright’s use of Shakespeare for inspiration. Uys’s appropriation of Macbeth and The Merry Wives of Windsor constitute two of the more recent, and innovative, examples of postcolonial Shakespeares responding to political conditions in South Africa. Attacking the threat of neocolonial economic violence and the cultural hierarchy formed during colonization, Uys’s plays are both powerful examples of political satire, but also destabilize the English playwright’s canonical status. Uys accomplishes this by embedding both in a specific – and extremely limited – social and political context. This being the case, while the plays illustrate Shakespeare’s usefulness in critiquing national crises after independence, they also reveal the precariousness of using satire for such purposes in the quickly-shifting political landscape of contemporary South Africa. Uys’s interjections are guilty of being too specific in this sense, outdone by the very conditions they sought to critique.

3The historical deployments of Shakespeare during, and after, British colonization of Africa mean that Shakespeare’s works occupy a contentious location. His place of origin, and the way that his plays and poems were introduced to colonial subjects by soldiers or missionaries, cause many to view him as a central component of the cultural violence inflicted during British occupation. Rohan Quince records in Shakespeare in South Africa that Hamlet was the first Shakespearean play to appear in the Southern Cape, performed by “British officers and men of Fort Frederick in Port Elizabeth” in 1799.5 Beyond this initial appearance, as a cultural attaché of armed occupying forces stationed in South Africa, scholars note Shakespeare’s works were broadly deployed by colonial agents as a tool to advance English cultural imperialism.

4Ania Loomba and Martin Orkin’s introduction to Post-Colonial Shakespeares outlines how, “during the colonial period, [Shakespeare became] the quintessence of Englishness and a measure of humanity itself.”6 Throughout this detailed study Orkin goes on to explore the violent ways that colonial deployments of Shakespeare functioned in South Africa. He records that apartheid authorities preferred Shakespearean texts as educational aids in black schools because they tended to “impede rather than facilitate acquisition of the [English] language.”7 In this case, Shakespeare was used to curtail, rather than enhance, the colonized subject’s adoption of English language and culture. Doing so would have created noticeable linguistic differences between colonizer and colonized, further entrenching colonial views of the colonized subject as Other.

5Such cultural violence echoes the trauma that Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s decries when he writes : “Berlin of 1884 was effected through the sword and the bullet. But the night of the sword and the bullet was followed by the morning of the chalk and the blackboard.”8 Used in this way, colonial administrators and missionaries deployed Shakespeare’s works as part of the intentional annihilation of indigenous culture and language that Ngũgĩ describes in Decolonising the Mind. As Jane Plastow explains in her introduction to African Theatre 12 : Shakespeare in and out of Africa, in “the nineteenth century missionaries sought to use Shakespeare as part of the ‘civilising mission’ and as one of Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s ‘cultural bombs,’ to teach English and inculcate an idea of the superiority of English culture.”9 It is for reasons such as these that many people in decolonizing states reject Shakespeare and his legacy “as a poet of empire or imperialism.”10 Yet, as Thomas Cartelli goes on to explain, such views are “clearly rooted in its advocates’ experience of, or reflections on, colonialism” and make up only one of the multitude of ways that Shakespeare has been constructed, circulated, and interpreted.11

6Scholars such as Natasha Distiller and Cartelli both explore the shifting meanings ascribed to Shakespeare in their research on postcolonial appropriations of his plays. In Cartelli’s work, he posits the anti-Shakespeare position held by members of decolonizing states is not only a response to their memories of colonial violence, but also a response to the “valorization of Shakespeare as the quintessential national poet,” which was itself a “product of conflations of Shakespeare and the British national identity that may be backdated to 1769 and the [David] Garrick Jubilee.”12 In Distiller’s study, she surmises : “Othello and Shakespeare will both mean differently in different times and places to different people in Africa.”13 The shifting perspectives that time and context inflect on the reception of Shakespeare lead her to conclude that “the power and contradiction” embodied by John Kani as a black Othello in Janet Suzman’s 1987 staging of Othello was unique to “that stage at that time.”14 As such scholarship attests, it is impossible to read Shakespeare’s works, or their performance history, in any singular or homogenizing fashion. To do so would ignore the extensive history of oppositional interpretations and subversive renditions that challenged colonial ideologies.

7Scholarship on postcolonial Shakespeares frequently highlights the importance of appropriation and hybridity as key strategies to oppose the cultural violence that colonial education systems inflicted on African subjects. For instance, as Plastow highlights, European missionaries could not control the way Africans received Shakespeare’s works ; “in the process [of cultural colonization], generations of Africans came to ‘own’ Shakespeare as part of their hybrid consciousness.”15 In South Africa, postcolonialists widely discuss Sol Plaatje’s translation of The Comedy of Errors into Tswana as an early example of this anti-colonial practice. For Tcho Mbaimba Caulker, Plaatje’s appropriation, titled Diphoshophosho, is a powerful symbolic action that moves beyond “mere translation.”16 This reformulation, he argues, also engages “political ideologies and political realities that reflect national desires and potential national realities related to these ideologies.”17 In this sense Plaatje’s translation was as much a political act as it was a linguistic one. Caulker notes one of Plaatje’s major themes was the “cross-cultural humanizing element” of his translations, a feature that would have been subversive in South Africa in the early twentieth century.18 Using Shakespeare to assert the humanity and common characteristics between people of all races contradicted the racial and cultural hierarchies that arose out of colonial interpretations of Shakespeare.

8During apartheid, activists utilized Shakespeare’s plays in a similar fashion. Michael Chapman notes that, like Plaatje,

the next generation of black writers – those attached, in the 1950s, to Sophiatown and Drum magazine – found in the English language (and in the inspiration of Shakespeare) confirmation of human value for African people against colonial and, by then, Verwoerdian-apartheid policies of retribalization.19

9Once again, Shakespeare’s works became an ideological battleground where colonized subjects could reclaim agency through interpretive processes that asserted their humanity. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the case of the Robben Island Bible, an anthology of Shakespeare’s works smuggled into the prison by Sonny Venkatrathnam.20 Shared amongst political prisoners such as Mandela and Govan Mbeki, Thabo Mbeki’s father, the anthology helped prisoners to communicate with, and inspire, each other. Daniel Roux records that the signatures and notes from anti-apartheid heroes in the margins of this text have spurred at least two notable monographs in recent years – “Ashwin Desai’s Reading Revolution (2012) and David Schalkwyck’s Hamlet’s Dreams (2013).”21 The overall interest in these anti-apartheid Shakespeares is restorative, helping to uncover the multifaceted history of the anti-apartheid struggle ; it is a history that is fragmented, due in large part, as Quince explains, to the selective ways apartheid authorities memorialized white productions of Shakespeare in “state archives and published memoirs,” while black productions were “dependent on word of mouth and the fortunes of oral history” to survive.22

10The conflicted history of Shakespeare in South Africa is what makes Uys’s new plays such important texts for critical analysis. Situated as part of a new wave of Shakespearean productions that critique the state of the nation and the African National Congress’s (ANC) condition after Mandela’s retirement, Uys’s works also make a powerful statement on the location of Shakespeare in the post-colony.23 His works target the legacy of colonization in South Africa by deriding neocolonial abuses and the characters who continue to revere colonial systems of power and control. In doing so, Uys’s use of Shakespeare eschews reaffirming the kind of European cultural hierarchy that the British playwright is often associated with in decolonizing states. In this fashion, Shakespeare’s plays are decolonized by ridiculing their colonial elevation, while at the same time being redeployed to critique national crises such as political corruption and continuing economic disparity.

11Uys’s inspiration to write these works came after seeing a performance of Macbeth on Broadway in 2008.24 The production resonated with Uys due to the uncanny similarities he saw between Shakespeare’s play and South African politics at the time. Describing Macbeth as “the ultimate battle-plan of political power games and fascist greed,” Uys transformed the playinto a farce to criticize the scandals plaguing Mbeki and, later, President Jacob Zuma.25 First performed at the Little Theatre, Cape Town, in February 2009, MacBeki also briefly ran at The Market Theatre in Johannesburg in April of the same year.26 Following this, Uys wrote The Merry Wives of Zuma to update his criticism of South Africa’s leaders. He staged the latter play in October of 2012 with students at Wits Theatre, but this production proved even more ephemeral than MacBeki. Itwas only performed for a single weekdue to a last-minute withdrawal of funding from sponsors.27 Notably, the limited runs of these plays have curtailed their critical reception and the overall interest from researchers.

12MacBeki farcically portrays President Mbeki’s rise to power in the new South Africa. Incorporating famous politicians into the play, South African leaders such as Mandela, Mbeki, and Cyril Ramaphosa appear as Maduba, MacBeki, and Ramabanquo. While loosely following the plot of Macbeth, Uys recasts the play in a post-independence South African context. For instance, Shakespeare’s witches are replaced with news reporters, able to predict MacBeki’s future because they write it. Subsequently, MacBeki’s rise to power is facilitated through publicity campaigns and deceit, coercing political rivals and even the play’s current King, Maduba, into offering him the throne. While MacBeki’s plan to acquire ultimate power succeeds for a brief period, his greed and materialism lead to his downfall. This eventually causes him to be replaced by MacZum, representing Zuma. Importantly though, unlike Macbeth, Uys’s play concludes with the deposed King escaping death by returning to the ranks of his political party.28 In doing so, the conclusion avoids the violent end that the audience might anticipate as workers and impoverished citizens storm Luthuli Castle to oust MacBeki.

13Uys’s second play sustains the satirical style and criticism of the earlier work. However, Zuma in The Merry Wives of Zuma turns out to be the town where events unfold, not the play’s protagonist. The plot follows the exploits of the town’s mayor, Dr. Gedley, as he attempts to consolidate political power by seducing two of his supporters’ wives. His plan is to gain access to their wealth and, eventually, to expand his family by marrying the two women. Martin Middeke, Peter Paul, and Greg Homann point out that Gedley is reminiscent of Zuma’s middle name, Gedleyihlekisa.29 Throughout the play he is a polygamous politician corrupted by greed and narcissism. His attempts at seduction create multiple situations where he must comically debase himself to prevent being discovered by the two husbands. At one point, he is thrown into a contaminated pond after escaping in a basket of dirty laundry. In another case, he appears in drag as one of his wives to affect an escape. Like TheMerry Wives of Windsor, it is the clever wives of Zuma – Mrs. Indira Patel and Mrs. Fenella Rosenberg – who outsmart the conniving suitor and reveal their own husbands’ shortcomings.

14Although Uys’s adaptations resemble Shakespeare’s plays on the surface, his characters and locations shift their meaning and significance. This is important because, like other postcolonial appropriations of Shakespeare, these works cannot simply be read as re-stagings of the canonical plays. Instead, the new productions privilege an audience intimately familiar with the political context that existed around their creation. As reviews of other appropriations suggest, incorporating politically-resonant material into performances can help to co-opt Shakespeare’s plays for new, local, purposes. Writing on the importance of Yael Farber’s SeZaR, performed at the 2001 National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, Laurence Wright contends that Farber’s play marks a significant shift for African appropriations of Shakespeare. Rather than embodying “processes of cultural translation or trendy theatrical Africanisation,” Wright argues Farber’s play is, “in a generous way, squarely and pointedly about Africa.”30 For Wright, SeZaR accomplishes this by broaching subjects which resonate strongly with South African audiences ; these include elements in the play that he believed people would relate to Chris Hani’s murder and corruption accusations levelled against Mbeki.31 Wright extols SeZaR because it eschews a “vague obeisance to metropolitan heritage,” which would constitute a neocolonial revitalization of Shakespeare.32

15Uys’s MacBeki and The Merry Wives of Zuma operate in a similar fashion to Wright’s interpretation of SeZaR. The two plays do so by opposing a neocolonial reading in both their content and language. Rather than reverentially staging plays from the English canon, an action Wright describes as playwrights in the post-colony “whimpering ‘me too !’” through “trendy” productions of Shakespeare, MacBeki and The Merry Wives of Zuma are firmly grounded in their local context.33 Reviews of MacBeki capture this aspect as writers such as Marianne Thamm praise the performance as : “the first theatrical rendering (apart from the one person shows) in 15 years that directly confronts and exposes those who would wield enormous power over our lives.”34 Thamm’s emphasis on MacBeki’s ability to confront and engage the failures of politicians underscores the salience of the play for audiences living through South Africa’s political shifts between 2007 and 2009. It is in a similar sense that reviewer Terri Dunbar-Curran describes South African politics as the play’s subject matter, proclaiming that, “if all goes according to plan, more than one politician will have their feathers ruffled.”35 Such statements indicate Uys’s satires piqued critical interest by drawing explicitly on current events.

16The timing of MacBeki is particularly salient to understanding these reviewers’ focus on the political satire contained in the work. The play was staged shortly after Mbeki’s political downfall to Zuma at the 2007 ANC National Conference in Polokwane and prior to the national election on April 22nd, 2009.36 The national changes these events brought about had a direct impact on the nation. As Roux concludes, if “‘apartheid’ and ‘post-apartheid’ are important temporal markers in the South African imaginary, ‘pre-Polokwane’ and ‘post-Polokwane’ mark, for many South Africans, the most important schism in the democratic era.”37 In this light, re-staging Zuma’s overthrow of Mbeki resonated powerfully with audiences watching MacBeki – a view supported by Thamm and Dunbar-Curran’s reviews.

17Uys’s fixation on the political implications of the Polokwane conference in these plays is one of the primary reasons we cannot view them as adaptations or cultural translations. As Cartelli identifies, there are important differences between postcolonial appropriations of Shakespeare, and adaptations ; whereas “most adaptations are interested merely in adjusting or accommodating the original work to the tastes and expectations of their own readership or audience,” an appropriation “both serves, and works in, the interests of the writer or group doing the appropriating but usually works against the avowed or assigned interest of the writer whose work is appropriated.”38 In this sense, Cartelli interprets appropriations as “a primarily critical” act, while adaptations constitute an “emulative act.”39 Cartelli’s definitions are important to a comprehensive understanding of Uys’s plays because they help to situate them as critical responses to Shakespeare, rather than emulative performances. This helps to identify the ways that Uys’s productions co-opt Shakespeare for new purposes.

18Both MacBeki and The Merry Wives of Zuma differ greatly from Shakespeare’s plays due to their transformation into political satires. As theatre scholar Anston Bosman observes, Uys “pointedly set recent politics at center stage by appropriating Macbeth.40 Bosman’s terminology in this quotation is significant because the sustained critique of national conditions in the plays suggests they are more about political criticism than Africanising Shakespeare. Uys exercises agency by shifting the focus and genre of the works he appropriates. With MacBeki, his revised ending reconfigures the tragedy into a comedy because no one is killed during the King’s downfall. In fact, during MacBeki’s defeat characters reassert their reverence for the fallen politician, such as Maduba proclaiming : “We love you, Comrade MacBeki. You have been part of our collective leadership and now the focus has moved on to another who will represent us.”41 This ending undoes the tragic downfall those familiar with Macbeth might expect.

19Throughout the play MacBeki lacks the necessary attributes to be viewed as a tragic figure. Whereas tragedy relies on “an action in which the hero’s greatness leads inexorably to suffering,” MacBeki’s attributes are contemptible : egotism, greed, and hypocrisy.42 For Mark Roche, the tragic hero’s downfall comes as an extension of their greatness : “whatever leads to greatness and allows the hero to realize a positive value also engenders suffering and destroys the positive value.”43 While MacBeki appears as highly educated in the play, a characteristic we might associate with greatness, his knowledge is linked to selfishness because he believes his education from Sussex University will lead others to revere him : “I will dazzle with words, quote phrases from my beloved Shakespeare who said : ‘To be or not to be King, that is the question.’”44 As this quotation reveals, MacBeki’s education does not establish him as magnanimous, a gifted leader, but is rather one of the primary ways he deceives politicians around him. Notably, Uys could have presented MacBeki as a tragic hero by closely aligning MacBeki’s anti-apartheid actions with those of Mbeki. Instead, Uys presents MacBeki’s involvement in the struggle as marginal, living abroad in safety to “answer the phones, collect financial support, study at Moscow University and plan the success of our Struggle.”45 Such passages downplay MacBeki’s involvement in the struggle, preventing the audience from sympathizing with him.

20Although many of the characters in the playbear a striking resemblance to actual politicians, it is important to note that neither MacBeki nor The Merry Wives of Zuma accurately portray South Africa’s leaders. MacBeki’s caveat, which claims “characters in MacBeki are fictitious” and any association with political leaders is “purely coincidental and should not be taken seriously,” indicates Uys draws inspiration from the country’s politicians.46 While individuals have similar histories or traits associated with Mbeki or Zuma, the caricatures’ flaws are satirized through exaggeration. In doing so Uys gives short shrift to the historical achievements of leaders like Mbeki, who was in direct danger when he was ordered into exile by the ANC.47 Living abroad from 1962 to 1990,48 Mbeki’s successes include rebuilding underground structures for resistance,49 developing slogans to sustain the cause,50 and securing financial support from Sweden to help the ANC “develop an embryonic policy apparatus.”51 Uys downplays these accomplishments by having MacBeki view exile as comfortable, providing him with educational opportunities and financial rewards.52

21Examples such as these illustrate how MacBeki eschews political leaders’ contributions to the struggle and reshapes their past to heighten the satire. This being the case, MacBeki does reflect serious criticism levelled against Mbeki’s administration, such as its principal focus on global and pan-African interests while South African poverty went largely unaddressed.53 Although there is not a seamless correlation between MacBeki and Mbeki or MacZum and Zuma, their flaws are clearly connected to the real-life politicians. And yet reviewers point out that at times such portrayals, especially concerning MacZum, “may feed into stereotypes” and thus limit the satirical critique.54 What we see, then, in MacBeki and The Merry Wives of Zuma is not an accurate portrayal of political leaders and their history on the stage, but rather Uys’s critical, and at times cynical, view.

22The shift between tragedy and farce in MacBeki is a symbolically powerful act because it informs the audience that, from the outset, Uys is the playwright, not Shakespeare. For reviewers such as Robyn Sassen, the transformation does not weaken the satire, but perhaps even strengthens it : “[MacBeki] is a farce, not a tragedy, even if the underlying layers hit home with profundity more than the rolling heads and blood baths in other interpretations.”55 Sassen’s review not only exemplifies how Uys embeds salient political criticisms beneath the surface of his comedies, it also highlights the kind of generic disruption an audience encounters when witnessing Uys’s appropriations. Moving from tragedy into farce shifts an audiences’ expectations, and focus. It is in this sense that Shakespeare’s works can be repositioned to serve the needs of decolonization and gain insight from shifting the way we view canonical plays.

23The ability to view appropriations as a kind of “predatory act” is what makes postcolonial Shakespeares so subversive, and useful, in processes of cultural decolonization.56Rather than producing a text that affirms the superiority of English culture, the cultural hierarchy is reversed as Shakespeare is repositioned to serve the local needs of a South African playwright like Uys. As he explains in MacBeki, a knowledge of Shakespeare is not necessary to appreciate these works because they reflect “the familiar confusion of patriotism, greed, bluster and ego that seems to make up our daily political fare.”57 This statement further reiterates the political focus of Uys’s intervention, locating the meaning of the play in political context, rather than Shakespeare. And yet, although a knowledge of Shakespeare is not essential to understanding MacBeki, there is a heightened critique for those able to appreciate the comparison Uys draws between Macbeth’s greed and MacBeki’s corruption.58

24Neocolonial economic violence figures prominently in both plays, especially through the appearance of corrupt and avaricious politicians. These characters participate in schemes that reflect the kind of violence Kenyan author and political activist Micere Githae Mugo defines as neocolonialism. For her, such systems of governance occur when “members of the ruling elite (whether military or civilian) essentially represent the interests of imperialism at the expense of the economically deprived masses.”59 This occurs because leaders in former colonies continue to sustain systems of economic or social control for the sake of their own personal, or foreign financial, interests. Robert C. Young nuances this term by describing neocolonialism as a “new form of subservience, to the economic system of capitalist power.”60 Such a system continues the physical, economic, and psychological oppression of those living in former colonies because “a continuing economic hegemony” keeps the post-colony “in a situation of dependence on its former masters.”61 Revealing the interconnections between MacBeki and Gedley’s leadership and the continuing economic exploitation of the lower classes, Uys highlights the threat that neocolonialism poses to national stability.

25Neocolonial abuses occur when MacBeki strikes financial deals withthree businessmen named Angla, Sosal, and Giltfelds. The play describes the trio as originating from the old structures of power in South Africa and possessing certain skills which they believe will assist MacBeki’s new government, namely in dishonest dealings.62 Representing a group that historically oppressed labouring black South Africans, Angla, Sosal, and Giltfelds’s partnership with MacBeki highlights the continuing influence apartheid beneficiaries have in the new democracy. Named after multinational corporations, specifically Anglo-American, Sasol, and Goldfields, the characters reflect the ways that industry, especially mining, continues to hold sway over political decisions. As beneficiaries of apartheid economic injustices, these corporations continue to uphold business practices that were honed throughout colonization.

26The threat of neocolonial violence in MacBeki comes to a head when the King convinces the trio to appoint Ramabanquo to their boards. The hideous reality, as MacBeki clearly knows, is that Ramabanquo will be “instrumental in adding noughts to your profit margins” and help to sustain the stark economic divisions between workers and the multinational corporations who employ them.63 Even more horrifically, the installation of Ramabanquo as CEO of these corporations helps to carry over economic violence from apartheid. In this manner, economic oppression continues unchecked, opening only a liminal space for corrupt comrades such as Ramabanquo to enter upper levels of business and politics. Disregarding the need to rebalance divisions between wealthy and poor citizens, MacBeki and Ramabanquo’s actions sustain systems of economic oppression that were a cornerstone of apartheid violence.

27Although the plays situate MacBeki and Gedley as the primary beneficiaries of neocolonial power structures, the plays expand the critique to reveal the ways that neocolonial violence exists broadly throughout society. This is accomplished in The Merry Wives of Zuma by including characters who use their influence to protect Gedley, such as Basil Rosenberg, Magistrate Slophe, and Mahatma Patel. Rosenberg silences critiques of the mayor by bringing litigation against any who publicly speak out against him, particularly a character called Inky who produces political cartoons reminiscent of Jonathan Shapiro’s work.64 Similarly, Judge Slophe accepts bribes to influence judicial verdicts.65 But while these two officials constitute universal depictions of corruption, Patel serves as a specific, and particularly salient, reminder of corruption accusations levelled against Zuma.

28Appearing throughout the play with an oxygen tank, Patel suffers from “a severe case of shabir-shaikilitis.”66 The reference to Durban businessman Schabir Shaik is a potent critique of the President’s past scandals. In this instance, Uys reminds his audience of the legal proceedings in which Shaik was found guilty of corrupt dealings with Zuma, but later released on medical grounds.67 Similarly, Patel evades a lengthy prison sentence for corruption based on a compassionate leave. While an oxygen tank he carries helps to perpetuate this myth, Patel repeatedly forgets to act frail. His behaviour implies the nation’s criminal system is unjust because it helps the business elite evade justice by accepting their falsehoods. However, beyond simply highlighting the failure of justice that Uys sees occurring in the Zuma-Shaik scandal, Patel is also guilty of being a selfless opportunist. Changing his religion daily to forge closer ties with business partners, “Muslim on Mondays, Hindu on Tuesdays, Jewish on Wednesdays,” and so on, his only concern is acquiring power.68 Because of this, he is as contemptible a character as Gedley. Both shift their personal beliefs whenever politics or finance require it. The picture that emerges throughout Uys’s criticism is that corruption not only destroys South Africa’s political and corporate landscape, it also compromises the characters who participate in it.

29 Language constitutes the other way that Uys eschews staging a neocolonial version of Shakespeare. Wright’s assertion that SeZaR positioned Shakespeare’s language as secondary to the substance of the play “by virtue of the fact that it was only about 50 % of the text used” underscores the way specific language, or a lack thereof, alters an appropriation’s meaning.69 In Uys’s case, there are only fleeting references to Shakespearean English. More importantly, in most cases characters use this language to dupe others. In MacBeki this involves MacBeki appearing as a kind of colonial mimic – a character that imitates European language and mannerisms to secure power in the post-colony. This term, derived from Homi K. Bhabha’s essay “Of Mimicry and Man,” is used to define a colonized Other who adopts Euro-imperial systems of representation and power for personal benefit. For Bhabha, the colonial mimic may emulate the knowledge or language of the colonizer but they are always denied inclusion into structures of power on the basis that they “almost the same [as the colonizer], but not quite.”70 Returning to Orkin’s earlier example, it is in this sense that Shakespeare was taught to indigenous South Africans during apartheid – used to signify inclusion in colonialism’s systems of power without allowing the colonized subject access to the upper echelons of society.

30 While Uys’s rewriting of Shakespeare runs the risk of maintaining this cultural hierarchy, the playwright consciously undercuts Shakespeare’s language and its corresponding cultural status. Importantly, it is largely the politicians being lampooned who choose to recite passages from Shakespeare. For example, MacBeki constantly paraphrases Shakespeare to draw attention to his foreign education at Sussex University. His hope is to showcase his European education and confirm his suitability to lead. This stance is underscored during a poetic moment in which MacBeki directly addresses the audience :

I would sit in Brighton after classes,
Sussex University was the place.
Studying UK history and farces,
Meanwhile dreaming of the day
I would be only second in line to the rainbow throne.
It is now all coming true.
But there are some in my way, like you.
Comrades always, star or runt,
Comrades in a collective front.71

31The correlation that MacBeki draws between his foreign education and his desire for leadership in this passage rests at the centre of Uys’s critique of neocolonialism. It is due to MacBeki’s foreign education that he ultimately envisions himself as a strong leader – a state of mind reaffirmed by his repeated references to Shakespeare. Such displays of knowledge help to elevate MacBeki above political rivals like MacZum, who defers to MacBeki’s judgement because he is “humbled” by his “intellect and guile.”72

32Problematically, MacBeki’s strategy to wield power after independence is based on a neocolonial worldview that relies upon the elevation of British language and education over other forms of knowledge. Rather than allowing this deception to work, the play exposes the performative elements of colonial mimicry. It accomplishes this by revealing MacBeki plotting with his wife to deceive political opponents by quoting from absurd sources such as “Shakespeare, Woolworths and Thesaurus.”73 In this way, MacBeki’s pride in his education is revealed as a ploy to seize power, much like the economic deals he forges with Ramabanquo.

33Notably, while MacBeki views a knowledge of Shakespeare as useful to advance politically, the play’s Porter has the inverse problem. The Porter’s knowledge of Shakespeare is ineffectual because the transition between apartheid and democracy has reformed the job market. As he explains in his monologue, “I studied Shakespeare and know the style. I wanted to be a classical actor and studied so, but there is no job, so this is my do.”74 The Porter’s lament is that his “lighter ethnic hue” prevents him from acquiring acting positions reserved under affirmative action policies.75 Such circumstances limit the ways he can use his education in theatre for personal benefit. As the play’s other character with a formal education in Shakespeare, the Porter is a foil to MacBeki. Such circumstances indicate Shakespeare’s power as a cultural icon works most effectively in the hands of the formerly colonized, not South Africans of European decent. This is due to the political shifts that have occurred since independence, relocating the Porter as an ethnic and political outsider. This point is reiterated when he questions Maduba’s decision to quote a Xhosa struggle slogan, asking : “Not Shakespeare ?,” to which Maduba quickly rebukes : “No, Umkhonto weSizwe !.”76 In this light, the dangers posed by a neocolonial revitalization of Shakespeare are linked to the colonial mimic, a character whose ethnicity positions them inside social and political networks where their education and familiarity with British culture and language can help to empower them alongside political rivals.

34Likewise, in The Merry Wives of Zuma, Gedley uses Shakespearean English to try and deceive Mrs. Rosenberg and Mrs. Patel. Quoting the love letter sent from John Falstaff to Mrs. Page, Gedley hopes the passionate lines from Shakespeare’s play will seduce the two women on his behalf. Contrary to Gedley’s views on Shakespeare’s writing, they find the wording odd. Mrs. Patel seizes upon the passage : “You love sack and so do I” as proof it is Gedley, and wonders if he has consumed more alcohol than normal.77 The humour here works in two ways. Firstly, rather than having the intended effect, Shakespeare’s words fall terribly short. They derail, rather than support, Gedley’s attempt at seduction. Secondly, while Gedley’s use of Shakespearean English is intended to impress, it inadvertently reveals his own ignorance. Intentionally quoting from Shakespeare because he believes the words will convey his passion, Gedley does not appreciate that his letter may have the same result as Falstaff’s words. Such instances mock Gedley’s knowledge of Shakespeare because, although he can quote perfectly well from The Merry Wives of Windsor, he uses the worst passage to support his cause.

35Notably, Fenella and Indira’s knowledge of Shakespeare protects them from Gedley’s plot. While the politician attempts to use Falstaff’s letter to gain power over them, Fenella and Indira’s familiarity withShakespeare’s plays mean they are unimpressed. In their minds Gedley’s letter is not only a threat to themselves, but the entire nation. As they reason, Gedley’s pursuit is an effort to present a false model of national unity, the women embodying the “beige and pinks sides of the rainbow nation.”78 In this example, Fenella and Indira’s fears highlight the relationship between gender violence, postcolonial transitions of power, and Shakespeare as a site of cultural power. Gedley’s actions suggest he shares a similar view of Shakespeare with MacBeki. Both men quote from plays to gain power over others. In doing so, Shakespeare’s elevated status in the post-colony becomes one of the primary mechanisms of control for these politicians, reminiscent of the ways Shakespeare was historically used by colonial educators to oppress colonized subjects. Drawing attention to this cycle of violence, Uys takes aim at Shakespeare’s canonical status as a component of the neocolonial violence impacting South Africa’s cultural decolonization.

36Theatre reviewer Mary Corrigall expresses a similar view by describing MacBeki as “a subversive rendition that simultaneously exploits the prose and the plot while destabilising or mocking its canonical status.”79 Uys’s use of Shakespeare cannot be viewed as another type of mimicry because his work undoes the cultural hierarchy upon which the system relies. Using the term “combination” to describe the inspiration behind MacBeki, Uys highlights a deliberate blending of Shakespeare with his own political criticism : “By July 2008 I had this new play on paper. It seemed a logical progression as a combination of the best of drama as inspired by William Shakespeare and the worst in politics as signalled by Thabo Mbeki.”80 In doing so, both plays exemplify the changing role Shakespeare can play in South Africa after independence.

37Even as Uys describes Shakespeare as “the best of drama” in his introduction to MacBeki, the generic, linguistic, and thematic changes he makes suggests that, through the act of appropriation, a critical lens is also applied to Shakespeare.81 Rather than mimicking European dramatic styles and language, or subverting them using ridicule, Uys employs Shakespeare as both a model of good drama as well as a tool to deride characters fixated on European culture. This creates a text that utilizes a hybrid position to criticize Mbeki’s and Zuma’s shortfalls. In this case, the syncretic structure of Uys’s plays create a new way of viewing South Africa’s political circumstances, but also a new relationship with Shakespeare. In an interview with Jonathan Rutherford, Bhabha argues a hybrid crossing between cultural positions produces a “‘third space’ which enables other positions to emerge.”82 This is how Shakespeare’s plot and language function in MacBeki and The Merry Wives of Zuma, opening a new space in which to criticize the elevation of European culture and neocolonial dangers while also ridiculing the failures of political leaders and instigate change.

38While Uys appears to have sought political change by emphasizing the importance of democracy and free speech throughout the plays, their genesis helps to understand the power – and limits – of such satire. As Gilbert Highet posits in The Anatomy of Satire, a good satirist “must describe, decry, denounce the here and now.”83 Uys, a gifted satirist, understands this principle. His effort to leave space for improvisation in The Merry Wives of Zuma reflects the need to remain current. As the stage directions explain, a short speech by a character named Juju, which is intended to “reflect the hypocrisy and surreal madness of the politics of the moment,” must be written at the time of staging.84 Such strategies highlight Uys’s attempt to remain current during a time of political instability.

39 What is perhaps most interesting about the history of these two productions is that, in many ways, the satire contained in them was unable to keep pace with the quickly shifting political landscape. In “A Playwright’s Note” to MacBeki, Uys explains the play was constantly at risk of being outdone by political events before it was even staged.85 Although it was specifically intended to attack Mbeki, the events at Polokwane threw the entire project into confusion. For Uys, “The political landscape was changing so quickly that a play, as opposed to a satirical review, was in constant danger of being outdone by events.”86 His strategy to address this problem was to modify the play to incorporate a bloodless coup – and MacZum’s overthrow of MacBeki – at its conclusion.

40MacBeki’s ending advances its satire of broad failures in government by positing Mbeki’s replacement, Zuma, may be no better than Mbeki. The final lines, spoken by a character impersonating Mandela, leave the audience with an image of unity by invoking the Rainbow Nation : “Whatever happens, we will all cope in one way or another. Let the Rainbow come back. The terrible hailstorm, at last, is over.”87 However, the ending seems hard to accept in light of the repeated instances of failed leadership throughout MacBeki, beginning with Maduba’s swift departure, followed by MacBeki’s colonial mimicry, and concluding with MacZum’s appearance wearing a showerhead.88 Instead of reading this ending as a triumphant celebration of unity and equality, as Maduba’s lines encourage us to, it should be seen as ironic ; equality and unity cannot exist when broad corruption and economic violence continue. Strategically, such an ending seems to encourage South Africans to seek political change at the ballot box because it is through democracy that MacBeki is successfully deposed.89

41In contrast to MacBeki’s conclusion, The Merry Wives of Zuma paints a bleaker image of South African politics and the state of free speech. The play ends with Inky, the cartoonist, impaling a drawing of Zuma on a spear. This action visually references the political firestorm in 2012 surrounding Brett Murray’s The Spear, a satirical painting of Zuma with exposed genitals. Closing the play in this way suggests Uys has serious concerns about the health of satire and free speech in South Africa. As he explains in an interview with Charl Blignaut about Murray’s painting, “I worry about self-censorship. Artists will look at this case and say, ‘I better not’.”90 Such sentiment reflects the numerous references Uys makes to the threat of legal action being taken against Inky throughout The Merry Wives of Zuma.91

42The picture that emerges at the conclusion is a legal system in risk of being unfairly used by politicians to silence political dissent from artists. It is in this light that the final words of the play advance the criticism initiated by MacBeki. Inky’s final statement goes beyond protecting Uys from legal recourse when it states : “the characters therein have no relation or reflection on anyone living, dead, or not yet in jail.”92 The ambiguity of the final clause conveys the serious dangers facing satirists. While the obvious interpretation of the passage is that the corrupt politicians being satirized will one day face legal consequences for their crimes, Uys’s failure to identify which of the characters are “not yet in jail” means the passage could be read in the reverse manner.93 In this light, other characters like Inky are similarly vulnerable to legal action as a consequence of satirizing the nation’s politicians. The ambivalence here is salient because it occurs in the very same sentence that Uys attempts to protect himself from legal repercussions.

43Although the events at Polokwane took Uys by surprise, he seems to have attempted to replicate the same degree of topicality by writing The Merry Wives of Zuma to coincide with the 2012 African National Congress at Mangaung. In fact, as one reviewer notes, Uys even joked about staging the play at the Mangaung conference.94 While such statements suggest these two plays earnestly attempted to reflect, and in some cases even predict, political events, the introduction to The Merry Wives of Zuma reveals the limits of this clairvoyance. Expressing his wish that Mangaung has the same impact on President Zuma as Polokwane had on Mbeki, his “Playwright’s Note” acknowledges that if his predictions are wrong the story will remain topical until 2014.95 It is in this regard that Uys most obviously misses his mark. While his satire in both plays is biting, his inability to outpace South Africa’s changing political landscape in many ways limited the success of the works.

44The debates and furor surrounding Murray’s The Spear overshadowed the debut of The Merry Wives of Zuma. Uys credits this event with causing his sponsors to withdraw funding for the play,96although he also acknowledges the play was not as cogent as MacBeki.97 Like the earlier play, political changes meant The Merry Wives of Zuma was outdone by the very circumstances it sought to engage. Perhaps as a result, neither play has been staged since their initial runs. However, perhaps because of this outcome, his emphasis has moved away from Shakespeare in recent years. Rare and Protected (2015) explores the impact political decisions have had on the environment and African Times (2015) is a reworking of an older anti-apartheid play, God’s Forgotten, from 1975.

45Although Uys’s focus has shifted, MacBeki and The Merry Wives of Zuma illustrate the important role that revitalizations of Shakespeare can play in the politics of decolonization. Appropriation is vital to this process because it is a subversive act that can transform Shakespeare’s canon into a political satire of national crises. As Cartelli records in his book, “the most extreme example” of “selective predation is the satiric appropriation.”98 And it is in this sense that Uys’s works appear to operate. Tellingly, shortly after Uys’s staging of the two plays, the 2015 National Arts Festival declared a genre, satire, as its artist of the year.99 The emphasis on satire at the festival extended to Uys, who was awarded Featured Arts Icon of the Year.100 The rise of satire as a primary mechanism of national criticism in recent years means Shakespearean appropriations will likely continue to serve a vital purpose. As Chapman argues, “Shakespeare’s survival in South Africa may have less to do with complicity in ‘naturalising’ white privilege” and more to do with his use as a “humanizing foil to dehumanising politics.”101 If such an assertion is true, Shakespeare’s revitalization post-Polokwane indicates a worsening of conditions, so much so that playwrights are now using strategies dating back to Plaatje’s Diphoshophosho to respond to political crises.

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Middeke, Martin, PAUL, Peter Paul, HOMANN, Greg Homann, The Methuen Drama Guide to South African Theatre, New York, Bloomsbury Methuen, 2015.

Moncho, Kgomotso, “Is This a Show(er) I see Before Me ?”, Review of MacBeki : A Farce to be Reckoned with, by Pieter-Dirk Uys, Star 31 March 2009, Tonight ed., p. 3.

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Notes

1  Pieter-Dirk Uys, “A Playwright’s Note”, MacBeki : A Farce to be Reckoned with, Darling, Peninsula, 2009, p. v.

2  Id.

3  Id.

4  Ibid. Due the play’s large cast, Uys staged the production it with Chris Weare as Director, who used University of Cape Town students as actors in the production (p.vi).

5  Rohan Quince, Shakespeare in South Africa : Stage Productions During the Apartheid Era, New York, Peter Lang, 2000, p. 2.

6  Ania Loomba and Martin Orkin (eds.), Introduction, Post-Colonial Shakespeares, New York, Routledge, 1998, p. 1.

7  Martin Orkin, “Possessing the Book and Peopling the Text”, in Ania Loomba and Martin Orkin (eds.), Post-Colonial Shakespeares, New York, Routledge, 1998, p. 190.

8  Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’, Decolonising the Mind : The Politics of Language in African Literature, Portsmouth (NH), Heinemann, 1986, p. 9.

9  Jane Plastow, Introduction, African Theatre : Shakespeare In and Out of Africa, vol. 12, 2013, p. x.

10  Thomas Cartelli, Repositioning Shakespeare : National Formations, Postcolonial Appropriations, New York, Routledge, 1999, p. 19.

11  Id.

12  Id.

13  Natasha Distiller, “Authentic Protest, Authentic Shakespeare, Authentic Africans : Performing Othello in South Africa”, Comparative Drama, vol. 46, n° 3, Fall 2012, p. 340.

14  Ibid., p. 352 (emphasis in original).

15  Jane Plastow, Introduction, African Theatre : Shakespeare In and Out of Africa, op. cit., p. x.

16  Tcho Mbaimba Caulker, “Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’ in Sierra Leone : Thomas Decker’s ‘Juliohs Siza’, Roman Politics, and the Emergence of a Postcolonial African State”, Research in African Literatures, vol. 40, n° 2, Summer 2009, p. 214.

17  Id.

18  Ibid., p. 215.

19  Michael Chapman, “To be a Coconut ? Thoughts Provoked by Natasha Distiller’s Shakespeare and the Coconuts : On Post-Apartheid South African Culture”, Critical Arts, vol. 28, n° 2, 2014, p. 167.

20  Daniel Roux, “Shakespeare and the Tragedy in South Africa : Black Hamlet to A Dream Deferred”, Shakespeare in Southern Africa, vol. 27, 2015, p. 1.

21  Id.

22  Rohan Quince, op. cit., p. 2.

23  Uys’s “A Playwright’s Note” to MacBeki situates the play as a direct response to the political shifts since Mandela’s departure from politics. As he explains, he was “convinced” that Mbeki “was not the right comrade for the job of building on the legacy of Nelson Mandela” (p. v).

24  Id.

25  Ibid., p. vi. While Uys describes MacBeki as a farce, the political elements within the play also transform it into a satire. The comically improbable elements in the play are farce – such as Maduba being ousted from power through the hypnotic singing of Celine Dion (p. 21) or the sudden relocation of an entire forest in the play’s final act (p. 77) – whereas the ridicule of corrupt politicians and neocolonial abuses of power is satire.

26  Ibid., p. viii, ix.

27  Lindile Sifile, “Play Sponsors Develop Cold Feet”, Sowetan Live, Times Media Group, 10 October 2012, Web, 21 April 2017.

28  Pieter-Dirk Uys, “A Playwright’s Note”, MacBeki : A Farce to be Reckoned with, op. cit., p. vi.

29  Martin Middeke, Peter Paul and Greg Homann, The Methuen Drama Guide to South African Theatre, New York, Bloomsbury Methuen, 2015, p. 289.

30  Laurence Wright, “Confronting the African Nightmare : Yael Farber’s SeZaR”, Review of SeZaR, by Yael Farber, Shakespeare in Southern Africa, vol. 13, 2001, p. 102.

31  Id.

32  Ibid., p. 102.

33  Id.

34  Marianne Thamm, “Uys Shakes Spear at Mbeki”, Rev. of MacBeki : A Farce to be Reckoned with, by Pieter-Dirk Uys, Cape Times 3 March 2009, p. 12.

35  Terri Dunbar-Curran, “Porter of a Pointed Parody”, Rev. of MacBeki : A Farce to be Reckoned with, by Pieter-Dirk Uys, Cape Times 11 March 2009, p. 7.

36  Kgomotso Moncho records the salience of the play’s debut, describing the timing as “perfect, what with the elections just around the corner” (p. 3).

37  Daniel Roux, “Shakespeare and the Tragedy in South Africa : Black Hamlet to A Dream Deferred”, op. cit., p. 7.

38  Thomas Cartelli, op. cit., p. 15.

39  Id.

40  Anston Bosman, “Cape of Storms : The Baxter Theatre Centre-RSC Tempest, 2009”, Rev. of The Tempest by William Shakespeare, Baxter Theatre, Shakespeare Quarterly, vol. 61, n° 1, 2010, p. 116.

41  Pieter-Dirk Uys, MacBeki : A Farce to be Reckoned with, Darling, Peninsula, 2009, p. 87.

42  Mark William Roche, Tragedy and Comedy : A Systematic Study and Critique of Hegel, New York, State University of New York, 1998, p. 49.

43  Ibid., p. 50.

44  Pieter-Dirk Uys, MacBeki : A Farce to be Reckoned with, op. cit., p. 15.

45  Ibid., p. 27.

46  Ibid., p. x.

47  Tom Lodge, “Thabo Mbeki and Cyril Ramaphosa : Crown Princes to Nelson Mandela’s Throne”, World Policy Journal, vol. 10, n° 3, 1993, p. 66, JSTOR, 12 December 2014.

48  Leonard Thompson, “Mbeki’s Uphill Challenge”, Foreign Affairs, vol. 78, n° 6, 1999, p. 92. JSTOR, 10 Dec. 2014.

49  Tom Lodge, “Thabo Mbeki and Cyril Ramaphosa : Crown Princes to Nelson Mandela’s Throne”, op. cit., p. 66, JSTOR, 12 December 2014.

50  Ibid., p. 68.

51  Ibid., p. 67.

52  Pieter-Dirk Uys, MacBeki : A Farce to be Reckoned with, op. cit., p. 15, 27.

53  Gerrit Olivier, “Is Thabo Mbeki Africa’s Saviour ?”, International Affairs, vol. 79, n° 4, 2003, p. 824, JSTOR, 5 Dec. 2014.

54  Marianne Thamm, “Uys Shakes Spear at Mbeki”, op. cit., p. 12.

55  Robyn Sassen, “Review : MacBeki”, Review of MacBeki : A Farce to be Reckoned with, by Pieter-Dirk Uys, Artslink.co.za, 4 April 2009, Web, 16 November 2017.

56  Thomas Cartelli, op. cit., p 17.

57  Pieter-Dirk Uys, “A Playwright’s Note”, MacBeki : A Farce to be Reckoned with, op. cit., p. vi.

58  For instance, Thamm notes that Uys’s play“gives literal expression to Karl Marx’s famous maxim that ‘history repeats itself as tragedy and then as farce’” (p. 12). MacBeki epitomizes this transformation as events of grave importance and political gravity from South Africa’s past are reworked into farce.

59  Micere Githae Mugo, “Exile and Creativity : A Prolonged Writer’s Block”, in Kofi Anyidoho (ed.), The Word Behind Bars and the Paradox of Exile, Evanston, Northwestern UP, 1997, p. 83.

60  Robert Young, Postcolonialism : A Historical Introduction, Oxford, Blackwell Publishing, 2001, p. 45.

61  Id.

62  Pieter-Dirk Uys, MacBeki : A Farce to be Reckoned with, op. cit., p 36.

63  Id.

64  Pieter-Dirk Uys, The Merry Wives of Zuma, Darling, Peninsula, 2012, p. 8. Shapiro is better known by his penname, Zapiro, and is famous in South Africa for his political cartoons.

65  Ibid., p. 11.

66  Ibid., p. 7.

67  Shaik was released from prison in early 2009 on a medical parole. He had served a little “more than two years of a 15 year sentence for corruption” at the time (Laganparsad). As of July 2017, journalist Monica Laganparsad records the Democratic Alliance is petitioning to have Shaik’s parole revoked on the basis that he is still alive and healthy, contradicting the terms of his release on the basis that he was in the final stage of a terminal illness.

68  Ibid., p. 12.

69  Laurence Wright, “Confronting the African Nightmare : Yael Farber’s SeZaR”, op. cit., p. 103.

70  Homi K. Bhabha, “Of Mimicry and Man : The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse”, October 28, vol. 28, Spring 1984, p. 126.

71  Pieter-Dirk Uys, MacBeki : A Farce to be Reckoned with, op. cit., p. 5-6.

72  Ibid., p. 26. It is important to consider Sussex is a newer university in the UK and not part of the prestigious tradition associated with older institutions like Oxford or Cambridge. In this regard MacBeki’s reverence for Sussex University is part of the humour directed at him. The way he lords his education over other South African politicians is overblown, causing him to look foolish to those familiar with the university education system in the UK.

73  Ibid., p. 12.

74  Ibid., p. 23.

75  Id.

76  Ibid., p. 9.

77  Pieter-Dirk Uys, The Merry Wives of Zuma, op. cit., p. 26.

78  Ibid., p. 29.

79  Mary Corrigall, “To Mock Mbeki – and ‘Macbeth’”, Rev. of MacBeki : A Farce to be Reckoned with, by Pieter-Dirk Uys, Sunday Independent 12 April 2009, p. 27.

80  Pieter-Dirk Uys, “A Playwright’s Note”, MacBeki : A Farce to be Reckoned with, op. cit., p. v.

81  Id.

82  Jonathan Rutherford, “The Third Space : Interview with Homi Bhabha”, Identity : Community, Culture, Difference, London, Lawrence and Wisehart, 1990, p. 211.

83  Gilbert Highet, The Anatomy of Satire, New Jersey, Princeton UP, 1962, p. 17.

84  Pieter-Dirk Uys, The Merry Wives of Zuma, op. cit., p. 67.

85  Pieter-Dirk Uys, MacBeki : A Farce to be Reckoned with, op. cit., p. vi.

86  Id.

87  Pieter-Dirk Uys, MacBeki : A Farce to be Reckoned with, op. cit., p. 88.

88  The showerhead in the final sequence is a reminder of the rape charges brought against Zuma in 2005 during which, as theatre reviewer David Smith recalls, the defendant claimed he reduced his risk of contracting HIV by showering after intercourse with an HIV-positive partner.

89  It is important to remember that this play was staged less than two months ahead of the national election.

90  Charl Blignaut, “From the Sublime to the Angry : Pieter-Dirk Uys”, City Press, News24, 27 May 2012, Web, 21 April 2017.

91  Such instances are reminiscent of the lawsuit Zuma filed against Shapiro over his “Rape of Justice Cartoon 1.” Zuma dropped this case prior to the 2012 ANC Mangaung conference presumably to “avoid a damaging legal showdown with cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro,” claim Glynnis Underhill and Verashni Pillay. Notably, The Merry Wives of Zuma debuted just weeks before Zuma abandoned the lawsuit.

92  Pieter-Dirk Uys, The Merry Wives of Zuma, op. cit., p. 86.

93  Id.

94  City Press, “Of Politics and Pantomimes”, City Press, News24, 13 October 2012, Web, 21 April 2017.

95  Pieter-Dirk Uys, “Playwright’s Note”, The Merry Wives of Zuma, op. cit., p. 3.

96  Lindile Sifile, “Play Sponsors Develop Cold Feet”, op. cit., n.p.

97  Uys writes in his “Playwright’s Note” that The Merry Wives of Zuma was “not gifted with as obvious a guide track to local political farce as Macbeth” (p. 3).

98  Thomas Cartelli, op. cit., p. 17 (emphasis in original). While Uys’s works resemble Cartelli’s definition of a transpositional appropriation – a work that “identifies and isolates a specific theme, plot, or argument in its appropriatve objective and brings it into its own, arguably analogous, interpretive field to underwrite or enrich a presumably related thesis or argument” (p. 17), the farcical elements in MacBeki and Uys’s description of The Merry Wives of Zuma as an “assault on the legacy of the greatest English dramatist in history” also suggest a satiric appropriation (p. 3). Cartelli defines satiric appropriations as works “which tend deliberately to fracture and fragment an array of Shakespearean texts, unmooring them from their established contexts and reassembling them in ways that render them absurb” (p. 17).

99  National Arts Festival, National Arts Festival Programme 2-12 July 2015 Grahamstown, [Grahamstown ?] : n.p., 2015, p. 15.

100  Ibid., p. 72.

101  Michael Chapman, “To be a Coconut ? Thoughts Provoked by Natasha Distiller’s Shakespeare and the Coconuts : On Post-Apartheid South African Culture”, op. cit., p. 175.

Pour citer cet article

J. Coplen Rose (2017). "Acting Out of Discontent : Satire, Shakespeare, and South African Politics in Pieter-Dirk Uys’s MacBeki : A Farce to be Reckoned with and The Merry Wives of Zuma". Shakespeare en devenir - Les Cahiers de La Licorne - N°12 - 2017 | Shakespeare en devenir.

[En ligne] Publié en ligne le 23 novembre 2017.

URL : http://shakespeare.edel.univ-poitiers.fr/index.php?id=1105

Consulté le 11/12/2018.

A propos des auteurs

J. Coplen Rose

Dr. J. Coplen Rose is an Assistant Professor at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada. His article on Pieter-Dirk Uys’s MacBeki and The Merry Wives of Zuma builds on research that he conducted while completing his Ph.D. in the Department of English and Film Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University. Titled “National Crises and Moments of Laughter in ‘Second Interregnum’ South African Drama, 2001-2014,” his dissertation analyzes political criticism and humour in eight plays produced after Nelson Mandela’s retirement. The project was completed through international fieldwork in South Africa between 2012 and 2013. This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.




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