This production of Hamlet, directed by Janet Suzman, played at the Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon as part of the RSC's Complete Works Festival in 2006.
Johannesburg-born Suzman directed the play for Baxter Theatre Centre in South Africa before the company toured to England for the Festival. The 'colour-blind casting' was a reflection of the multi-ethnic population of South Africa and with a cast of only 12, most of the parts were doubled (or tripled).
The whole world of Elsinore was a prison for Hamlet, who work the shorts and shirt of a South African prisoner. The minimal set - more from logistical and financial constraints than choice - plus actors fresh to Shakespeare's writing, allowed Suzman to tell the story in an African context with clarity.
The company suffered a real-life great tragedy when one of the actors was murdered outside Cape Town shortly before coming to England. Brett Goldin, playing Guildenstern, was thought to have been the victim of a car-jacking. In response to this terrble loss, the RSC and Baxter set up the Brett Goldin bursary, which provides a yearly grant for one or two young South African actors to travel to England and work with the RSC.
More about this production
Interview with the director
Production photo gallery
Actor Vaneshran Arumugam uses extracts from his performance to talk about about playing Hamlet in this production:
Watch video at BBC Learning Zone
Interview with Janet Suzman and John Kani about this production of Hamlet:
Shakespeare, the storyteller of Africa
David Blair, Daily Telegraph, 19 April 2006
Review: Hamlet - The shadow of a real tragedy
Dominic Cavendish, Daily Telegraph, 5 May 2006
Michael Billington, Guardian, 4 May 2006
Kate Bassett, The Independent, 7 May 2006
Photo by Suzanne Worthington shows Vaneshran Arumugam in the 2006 production of Hamlet. Here, he's delivering Hamlet's famous soliloquy while performing slow t'ai chi style moves © RSC