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Cape of Storms: The Baxter Theatre Center–RSC Tempest, 2009


The South African production of The Tempest created in 2009 by the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Baxter Theatre Centre under the direction of Janice Honeyman won acclaim both at home and on tour in England. While spectacular and at times moving, the production nonetheless suffered from predictable casting—Anthony Sher as a colonialist Prospero and John Kani as an enslaved Caliban—and an aesthetic familiar from recent depictions of Africa in mainstream Western theater and film. Honeyman’s dexterous local touches appealed to South Africans, while British audiences and media chiefly responded to the play as an allegory of colonial insurrection and postcolonial reconciliation. In the year of South Africa’s third democratic elections, however, this allegory appeared both narrow and outdated, and the production finally belonged to neither of its stars but to the young Atandwa Kani, who played Ariel with freshness and finesse. The question arises: has The Tempest now exhausted its postcolonial potential?

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