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HAMLET : A once-off-live-online-Reading


Theatre enthusiasts had the rare opportunity to experience a work in progress in the continued development of Neil Coppen’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s HAMLET.

Here is the original press release:

DGC in partnership with VRTheatrical and the KKNK, in association with the Tsikanya-Chaka Centre and the Centre for Creative Arts-UKZN, present a professional, rehearsed reading of a new version of Shakespeare’s epic tragedy, adapted and directed by Coppen, an internationally acclaimed writer, designer and director. The reading forms part of the further development of the piece.

Featuring a brilliant local cast, the once-off, live online reading will take place on Monday 31 May at 18h00 and will be hosted on the KKNK website. It will be free to view for those who wish to tune in.

The cast for the rehearsed reading includes: Anelisa Phewa, Rehane Abrahams, David Dennis, Buhle Ngaba, Faniswa Yisa, Tony Bonani Miyambo, Tshego Khutsoane, Jemma Khan, Richard September, Wiseman Sithole and Royston Stoffels.

South African born Broadway actress, Bianca Amato, and multi-award-winning South African actor, writer and speaker, Buhle Ngaba, (Swan Song, What Remains and author of The Girl Without A Sound) will be Associate Directors alongside Coppen for the reading.

A Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Theatre recipient, Coppen’s prolific work includes Animal Farm, Abnormal Loads, and Tin Bucket Drum which in 2019 was awarded the English Academy of Southern Africa Olive Schreiner Prize for Drama.  He is one of six South African playwrights to have been granted a staged reading of his work at The Royal Court Theatre. Neil also co-directed and designed Cape Town Opera’s premiere of Tsotsi - the Musical, and in early 2020 collaborated with Canadian First Nations dance company Red Sky Productions in Toronto on the premiere of a new work titled AF. Seminal to Coppen’s work across a range of cultures and communities in South Africa, is a social-justice, theatre-making methodology,Empatheatre, which he co-founded and created with actress, Mpume Mthombeni, and sociologist, Dr Dylan McGarry. 

Bianca Amato is an award-winning actor, acting coach and director who has returned to South Africa after working in theatre in New York City for fifteen years.  She will be acting as Associate Director and text coach for this reading of HAMLET. She is also in the process of forming The Quickening Theatre Company which will focus primarily on performing Shakespeare in a South African context. 

“HAMLET was scheduled to run at The Fugard Theatre in 2020 prior to the Covid-19 lockdown and subsequent closure of The Fugard. I am delighted that Neil’s bold vision for this production will take a big step towards further development with an incredible team, enabling audiences to experience the compelling nature of a live reading which forms part of the development process,” says Producer, Daniel Galloway, who marks his first independent presentation under his DGC banner with this presentation of the reading of HAMLET.

“When Greg Karvellas from The Fugard approached me to direct an adaptation of Hamlet, I jumped at the opportunity as it’s the one Shakespearean text that really excited me to reimagine and bring to life within a contemporary South African setting. My adaptation focuses on a South African Royal/Political dynasty not unlike the ones we see on the nightly news. Whenever I hear or read about the latest  succession scandal, I’m reminded of how authentically the themes and ideas behind Hamlet can be situated within modern day South African cultures and paradigms,” says Coppen.

“Rehearsing Shakespeare on Zoom is definitely not without its own set of challenges which is why I’m extremely grateful to have both Buhle and Bianca’s support in the Zoom rehearsal room with me. I’m  excited about where our adaptation of Hamlet currently sits, and how this online reading process will enable it to grow and expand further. The script and concept I’m starting out with will benefit and develop greatly from the feedback, imaginations and inputs of our assembled cast.”

“I see this reading as a way to publicly acknowledge the initial vision and support of Eric Abraham, Greg Karvellas and the formidable team at The Fugard Theatre, all of whom made this process possible in the first place,” says Coppen.

Associate Director, Buhle Ngaba, comments, “I am inspired by the opportunity to continue to excavate Shakespeare on home ground. It’s something I couldn’t turn down as either an actor or associate on the project. I hope that audiences are offered a unique perspective on all the possibilities to be explored through storytelling within the diaspora. I am ready to meet the ‘Zoom’ challenge and the moment as any artist does; with a readiness to dive right in.”

Associate Director, Bianca Amato, comments, “I have always been in awe of Coppen’s explosive and visceral theatre making-style and I am looking forward to collaborating with the immensely talented team to present a unique reading of Shakespeare’s powerful tragedy, which will be accessible for people around the world to experience.”

The live, online reading of HAMLET has been made possible through the  support of the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture and the National Arts Council.

The rehearsed reading of Neil Coppen’s adaptation of HAMLET will be presented on Monday 31 May at 18h00.  To watch the free live, once-off online reading, visit

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