Global Shakespeare

Shakespeare in Kenya | A Great Feast of Languages

By April 5, 2014 One Comment

Hamjambo! This week we turn turn to coverage of Shakespeare in Kenya.

Anyang’ Nyong’o covers the complicated history of studying Shakespeare (and other canonical English literature) in Kenya. Kenya gained its independence from Great Britain in 1963, which made Shakespeare’s works a source of contention–the words of the former colonizing power. Nyong’o, writing for Standard Digitalargues that Shakespeare is still relevant, and can still speak to the people of Kenya’s many autonomous counties:

I find Shakespeare’s historical plays worth studying if we are to understand African politics today. The politics of conspiracy and betrayal that comes out in Richard the Second is very reminiscent of “the traitor” episode of 1983 when Moi quickly dispensed with Charles Njonjo after a rather bizarre debate in Parliament when “the hounds of Baskerville” competed with each other on who would howl against Sir Charles the most.


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Mwangaza Art School in Kisumu, Kenya, the only art school in western Kenya, offers art degrees, including a focus on performing arts. In 2012,students updated  The Taming of the Shrew to present day Kisumu. Students also produced paintings based on characters and themes of the play, such as “Mutata’s interpretation of Petruchio’s killing Kate with kindness.” Their performance of The Taming of the Shrew may be viewed via Vimeo: Part 1 and Part 2.

Next, we turn to the 2012 Globe to Globe festival. Kenya’s Bitter Pill theatre company brought a lively and kinetic slapstick version of The Merry Wives of Windsor (performed in Swahili). The Guardian gave a very positive review. You can listen to a short audio clip here. Sarah Olive, University of York, reviewed the play and compared it to modern pop culture, such as Desperate Housewives, for the “Year of Shakespeare” component of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s fantastic blog Blogging Shakespeare. There are also several audio clips, interviews, and short scenes available, following Olive’s review.

Finally,  the Globe Theatre’s world tour of Hamlet will commence at the Globe Theatre on April 23, 1614–Shakespeare’s 450th birthday. The last three stops are especially poignant:

  • Performance #204 Rift Valley, Kenya, (“where human life began on Earth”–artistic director Dromgoole) 
  • Performance #205, Hamlet’s own home, Elsinore Castle,
  • Performance #206, on April 13, 1616, on the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, will return back to the Globe TheatreStop

Until next week… Kwaheri! The Shakespeare Standard is currently seeking volunteer editors, interns, and contributors for its website. If you are interested, please contact Jeremy Fiebig or Kim Keeline by email at Please be sure to provide your resume, and a cover letter explaining both your experience with Shakespeare and your areas of interest. Thank you again for your interest in The Shakespeare Standard, we look forward to hearing from you.

Shakespeare in Kenya | A Great Feast of Languages shakespeare news The Shakespeare Standard shakespeare plays list play shakespeare The Shakespeare Standard is an online Shakespeare forum dedicated to bringing the online community Shakespearean news about performance, scholarship, and multimedia every day.  Please join us here at our site or on Facebook or Twitter to discuss the latest things of interest in Shakespeare news. If you would like to share more information about a Global Shakespeare or non-Anglophone Shakespearean production, film, website, etc., please email me at with the subject line “Global Shakespeare.”


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