The internationally acclaimed, South African-born actress and director, Dame Janet Suzman, will be in South Africa and ‘In Conversation With’ Shakespeare specialist, Professor Chris Thurman, for one night only, at The Baxter, on Saturday 13 April from 17h30 to 18h30. This special talk coincides with the season of William Shakespeare’s Othello, adapted and directed by Lara Foot with design by Gerhard Marx, music by Kyle Shepherd, lighting by Patrick Curtis and featuring a phenomenal cast.

Suzman, a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for her services to drama, directed Hamlet at The Baxter and at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2006. When Suzman tries to remember why Shakespeare has always meant so much to her, she says her English teacher at school - who obviously fancied herself as Rosalind - opened her eyes to Shakespeare’s characters who were so vivid, complex and funny, that they seemed truly human. When she graduated from Wits, she left SA to study acting at LAMDA. She joined Peter Hall’s new company in 1964 for Shakespeare’s 400th Birthday, for his opening Stratford season of the history plays, kicking off her long career. For a decade, she played major roles at both Stratford and The Aldwych in London.

The Sunday Times critic described her performance of Cleopatra as: ‘No-one has equalled her performance in erotic power, or the way she combined the consummate politician and the regal fishwife’. She has twice won the Evening Standard Best Actress Award and was nominated for both Academy and Golden Globe awards. In 1987, she directed John Kani as Othello at The Market Theatre, seeing it as a protest play about apartheid. “Excitingly, Kani’s talented son Atandwa steps into his father’s shoes in the role of Othello, and Lara Foot’s post-apartheid vision is as radically different as the changes that have occurred in the country itself. Such is Shakespeare’s unfailing flexibility in expressing the truth of the moment,” says Suzman.

Chris Thurman is Director of the Tsikinya-Chaka Centre at the University of the Witwatersrand, president of the Shakespeare Society of Southern Africa and founder of Shakespeare ZA. He is co-editor, with Sandra Young, of Global Shakespeare and Social Injustice: Towards a transformative encounter (2023). He has also edited South African Essays on ‘Universal’ Shakespeare (2014), Sport versus Art: A South African Contest (2010) and fifteen volumes of the journal Shakespeare in Southern Africa. He writes a weekly arts column for Business Day.

Othello runs at The Pam Golding Theatre at The Baxter from 6 April to 4 May at 19h30 with Saturday matinees at 14h00 and selected weekday performances at 11h00.

Dame Janet Suzman in Conversation with Prof Chris Thurman, on Saturday 13 April 2024 at 17h30, provides audiences the perfect opportunity to watch the matinee or evening performances of Lara Foot’s Othello, before or after the talk.

For tickets to Othello, book here: