Shakespeare performance in translation is a rich and longstanding global tradition. While translations of some Shakespeare plays in South African languages do exist, filmed performances of these texts are virtually non-existent – amounting to an unnecessary and rectifiable impoverishment of local cultural life.
The Speak Me A Speech project addresses this shortcoming. Harnessing the impressive talents of actors and translators conversant in both Shakespeare and in these languages, it is enriching the South African linguistic, cultural and intellectual worlds – in the same way that German, Spanish, Japanese, Cantonese and other major world languages and cultures have been elevated, in some instances for centuries, through Shakespeare performance in translation.
When complete, this project will be a milestone in the history of Shakespeare in South Africa, with filmed performances of updated translations in the most comprehensive representation of local languages from a wider selection of plays presenting a larger number of Shakespeare characters than has ever been undertaken before.
a new high-water mark in Shakespeare
performance in South African languages,
superior in scale, quality and reach
It is taking shape as an important and substantial body of work in a previously neglected and under-resourced sphere. Upon completion it will represent a new high-water mark in Shakespeare performance in South African languages – in scale, quality and reach superior to anything that has been delivered in this field to date, thereby establishing a solid foundation in the form of a pool of talent and new creative collaborations to serve as springboard for significant further advances in this area.
The project outputs are aimed simultaneously at a local audience of native speakers of the languages spoken in the short films (including as a resource for schools), and at a global audience, as a contribution to the world’s treasure of filmed performances of Shakespeare in translation.
Filmed monologues are made publicly available on this web platform, with user-selectable subtitles either in Shakespeare’s original language, the spoken South African language, or a translation into contemporary English of the spoken language, as well as user-selectable text versions, including a line-by-line parallel text. In addition, selected monologues are included in the feature-length documentary film Speak Me A Speech, combined there with insights into the material from actors and translators and cinematic footage of the country and society where these languages are spoken.
The project is a joint undertaking by Cape Town’s CineSouth Studios and the Tsikinya-Chaka Centre in the School of Literature, Language and Media of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. The brainchild of CineSouth’s Victor van Aswegen and the TCC’s Prof Chris Thurman, the Speak Me A Speech project was conceptualised in the second half of 2022 and the first monologues filmed in January 2023.
Currently in production, with five of the project total of 35 monologues completed and available. New monologues are made available on this platform as soon as the process of translation, casting, performance, filming and post-production of each concludes with final output and delivery.