Review: Shakespeare Schools Festival South Africa (SSF SA), 2020, March 7, 2020, The Fugard Theatre, Cape Town

Last night [March 7, 2020], we were privileged to see a showcase of three works staged by the Shakespeare Schools Festival South Africa (SSF SA), at The Fugard Theatre. The format of the festival is that schools present abridged versions of Shakespeare’s plays – 30 minute adaptions. Learners may keep with Elizabethan settings or localise plays and add in music, dance and dialect. Plays may be performed in any of our official languages.

SSF SA is on nationally in South Africa and its satellite festivals are scheduled for Malawi and Moscow.

The Cape Town leg of the festival is on at The Fugard Theatre from March 3 to 14, 2020.  

This year -2020- marks the 10th anniversary of the SSF SA. It is also the 10th anniversary of The Fugard Theatre. Read about the festival and its incredible artistic director, Ksenyiya Filinova-Bruton on TheCapeRobyn. Click in search bar to locate the article

This was the programme for Saturday March 7, 2020

❇ School- We FewThe Taming of the Shrew. We Few is a home schooling group with young participants. One of the learners in the group is six years old. 

❇School-Generation Schools Blue MoonA Midsummer Night’s Dream. This is a Montessori school. This production features Grade-4-6.

❇ School- Pioneer School for learners with visual barriers– Romeo and Juliet. This group features some learners who are totally blind and others who live with levels of visual impairment-such as tunnel vision. 

Wowed by the exuberance and creativity  

We were bowled over by the exuberance, creativity, energy and sheer joy in the three productions that we saw.

The first production, The Taming of the Shrew, staged by a home schooling group was a delight. The youngest in the group is six. The Bard was upstaged by cuties who had the audience in peals of laughter. 

The 2nd production, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, was presented by the Generation Schools Blue Moon – a Montessori school in Heathfield (Bergvliet).

The school staged an impressive production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream with colourful costumes, lighting and two on-stage musicians- a violinist and flutist. The diction and voice projection was good; lovely adaption of this play. It looks like tremendous work went into this polished piece – way beyond what one would expect from a school production. Bravo to the creative team in staging this impressive 30 minute version of this complex play. 

Romeo and Juliet in Camps Bay 

The stand out production of the evening was Romeo and Juliet, presented by The Pioneer School.

The festival allows schools to bring their own interpretation to Shakespeare plays. They can play them in period or modernise and localise the settings.  

In Romeo and Juliet as visioned by The Pioneer School, we see the tragic couple partying in Camps Bay. There is a DJ and a guest list. Romeo is not able to get the missive about Juliet’s fake death as he runs out of air-time and cannot access his messages. You know what happens. An order or KFC is the panacea to the tragic outcome. It is hilarious to watch the reactions of the party goers to what has transpired. It is pure South Effrican speak – yo-yo-yo.

The production features knock out comic timing, fabulous choreography and tremendous range of gesture between the protagonists. It’s funny, threaded with South African jargon and very much taps into being young in Cape Town – hanging out in clubs, making guest list; partying; being in love and all the challenges of defying parents and community.

Oh, yeah – let’s just mention that this is a visually impaired group of learners. Never mind the visual impairments; these are extraordinarily talented young people who own this adaptation of the star crossed lovers – with vooma and artistry. 

Facilitating theatre for visually impaired 

The creative brains trust behind this production is Pioneer’s drama teacher, Derek Daly. I chatted to him briefly after the show. His enthusiasm and commitment to his students is palpable.

I was amazed at the physical and emotional contact between the young artists. They may not have perfect vision and some have none but I had a sense of them seeing each other on that stage – connecting as protagonists in this madcap Romeo and Juliet, set in Camps Bay. We don’t see visually impaired actors fumbling on stage. It is a stand-alone piece of compelling theatre.

Marking out the stage with textured path ways

Carpet bands are placed on stage so that visually impaired students can navigate across the stage. Learners with sight periodically hold hands with class mates and help to steer them around the space. Under Derek Daly’s direction, it is seamless. One doesn’t get a sense of “help” or “assistance” as it has been integrated into the narrative.

About the Pioneer School

According to the school’s website, the genesis of the school goes back to 1881 when Het Doofstommen en Blinden Instituut was established in Worcester. In 1981 the name was changed from School for the Blind to the Pioneer School. The school multi-pronged programme accommodates “visually impaired learners and visually impaired learners with multiple barriers to learning which include deafblind learners.” See

Image credit: Generation Schools Blue Moon – A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the 2020 SF SA . Pic: TheCapeRobyn

Theatre/travel✈ advisory: The Shakespeare Schools Festival SA 2020

The Shakespeare Schools Festival SA 2020 (SSF SA): Cape Town – at The Fugard Theatre from March 3-14. Performances start at 7pm.

The Fugard Theatre address: Corner Caledon and Lower Buitenkant Street, District Six, Cape Town, 8001

Book: or call 021 461 4554 The direct link for the festival:

National tour South Africa 2020: The Shakespeare Schools Festival South Africa (SSF SA). Other cities the festival will tour to up until September 2020 include Johannesburg, Durban, George and Makhanda.

Information about Shakespeare Schools Festival: see or e-mail Kseniya Filinova-Bruton on 

Related coverage of the 2020 Shakespeare Schools Festival: