South Sudanese in Shakespeare play, a call for peace

Tue May 8, 2012 8:37am EDT
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By Yeganeh Torbati

LONDON (Reuters) - The moment the besieged British king in Shakespeare's "Cymbeline" defies a far stronger Roman empire to declare his people's independence is filled with tension in any production.

For the South Sudanese troupe putting on the play one chilly spring night in London, that is also the moment where Elizabethan invention and modern African reality collide. Back home, they and their countrymen face the very real threat of war just a year after gaining independence from a powerful ruler.

"We had connotations that could be applicable to the situation in South Sudan," South Sudanese playwright and director Joseph Abuk told Reuters.

Abuk translated Cymbeline into Juba Arabic and co-directed the play alongside Derik Uya Alfred.

"We wanted to pick a play that has a similar conflict that has raged in the country for a very long time," Abuk said.

Since separating from Sudan last July, after signing a peace agreement which ended decades of civil war that claimed millions of lives, South Sudan has struggled to keep peace with Khartoum.

The two countries disagree over citizenship, border demarcation, and transit fees for South Sudan's oil, which must travel through Sudan for export.

That provides the potent backdrop for Shakespeare's tale of the rebellious British monarch who refuses to pay tribute to imperial Rome, sparking war. "Cymbeline" was put on this May in London as part of a cultural festival tied to the Olympics.   Continued...