It is a hallmark of great literature, in particular those works in the global canon written to be performed, that over the centuries each generation engages with it afresh, rediscovering its value and remaking its meaning for themselves. The Speak Me A Speech project encapsulates and presents a rich body of work being done by the talented cohort of performers and translators alive and working in South Africa today, gathered here to make Shakespeare’s words and thoughts come alive in their own languages to speak powerfully to us today.

About >

The Shakespeare characters in the Speak Me A Speech project do not speak English. They express themselves in the sounds, idioms and nuances of South Africa’s many languages – isiZulu, isiXhosa, Afrikaans, Sepedi, Setswana, Sesotho, Xitsonga, siSwati, Tshivenda, isiNdebele. But more than that: each of these characters is reimagined in a world far removed from the Elizabethan London in which they were first conceived. All the great Shakespeare characters here inhabit today’s world. Situated in a modern-day context and a local setting, they speak to us as contemporaries.

Translations >

The monologues spoken in the Speak Me A Speech project have been meticulously selected from Shakespeare’s immense corpus for the power and precision with which they address the timeless themes shaping human lives: from adolescent infatuation and love triangles to the travails of married life, political strains and social strife, prejudice and ambition, conscience and madness, transience, death, and much else besides. Grappling with situations and emotions we can all recognise, these characters are often able to articulate our thoughts and feelings better than we can do ourselves.

Monologues >

Sir Thomas More, Portia, Falstaff and Mistress Page, speaking isiZulu, Setswana and Afrikaans – to date five monologues spoken by four characters in three languages have been filmed and delivered. Production is ongoing, with another 30 monologues selected and remaining to be performed and shot for a project total of 35, planned to be complete by the second half of 2024. Waiting in the wings, polishing their lines in South African languages and preparing to step onto the film set are Ophelia, Shylock, Lady Macbeth, Prospero, Hamlet …

Production >

The initiative to date has been funded and continues to be funded by project partners CineSouth Studios and Wits University’s Tsikinya-Chaka Centre, with additional funding support from the Shakespeare Society of Southern Africa. In addition, Toyota US Woordfees and Easy Equities have committed to financial support to enable preview screenings with Q&A during the 2023 Woordfees in Stellenbosch. To be announced: founding sponsor and other funders whose support will make completion of the project possible.

Sponsors >

A selection of filmed monologues from this project form the backbone of the feature-length documentary Speak Me A Speech, being produced in parallel. In the film the monologues are interwoven with sequences presenting some of the actors reflecting on the characters they portray and the thinking underpinning the translations and the reimagining of the character in a contemporary setting – all embedded in cinematic footage and music composed for the film reflecting the country and society where these languages are spoken.

Film >