Neil Coppen’s ‘Hamlet’ online

Award-winning Durban actor, playwright , designer and director Neil Coppen. A free, live-online reading of his work in development of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet will be presented on May 31 on the KKNK website.

DURBAN actor, playwright, designer and director Neil Coppen is in the spotlight again – and theatre enthusiasts will have the rare opportunity to experience his new work in progress, in the continued development of his adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

DGC in partnership with VRTheatrical and the KKNK, in association with the Tsikanya-Chaka Centre and the Centre for Creative Arts-UKZN, will 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 fine local cast, the once-off, live online reading will be at 6pm on  Monday, May 31,  and will be hosted on the KKNK website (click here: KKNK website).It will be free to view.

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

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

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 15 years.  She is in the process of forming The Quickening Theatre Company which will focus primarily on performing Shakespeare in a South African context. 

The winner of a Standard Bank Young Artist Award, Coppen’s fine work output has included Animal FarmAbnormal Loads and Tin Bucket Drum, which in 2019 was awarded the English Academy of Southern Africa Olive Schreiner Prize for Drama.  

Coppen is one of six South African playwrights to have been granted a staged reading of his work at London’s Royal Court Theatre. He 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 Productionsin 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 15 years.  She is in the process of forming The Quickening Theatre Company which will focus primarily on performing Shakespeare in a South African context. 

Coppen’s Hamlethad been scheduled to run at Cape Town’s 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,” says Coppen.

“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,” he adds.

 “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.”

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


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