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African Tales by Shakespeare (Warlikowski, 2011)

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African Tales by Shakespeare

In “African Tales by Shakespeare,” director Krzysztof Warlikowski and actors from Nowy Teatr return to Shakespeare in a production which places Othello, The Merchant of Venice and King Lear, alongside with John Maxwell Coetzee’s Summertime and Wajdi Mouawad’s monologues (which were especially written for the play). In this thought-provoking five-hour theatre show, Shakespeare’s protagonists – Lear, Othello and Shylock – are depicted as outcasts who share a single fate and are thus played by the same actor. In the program notes, Warlikowski explains how “Even in the most civilized communities, the Jew, the black man and the old man still evoke aversion, hatred, anxiety and fear”. The text from Coetzee, the South-African Nobel laureate who grew up under the apartheid, helps to highlight the experience of what it is to be an outsider. “African Tales” is an unusual piece, which transcends the literary works it invokes, be it in its representation of a sassy Desdemona, or in the visual references which point to Art Spiegelman’s iconic Maus, and its depiction of Jews as mice and Poles as pigs. Somehow, each character’s pain finds its way to the audience, which also feels discomfort when seeing Othello played by a Polish actor with his hands and face painted in black. Warlikowski makes us feel intentionally uneasy, so as to remind Europe of the perils of hatred and exclusion. This was a Prospero project, an European initiative which aimed to create a common cultural platform between nations.

“African Tales by Shakespeare” premiered on October 5, 2011 in Liège, Belgium, Théâtre de la Place. The Polish premiere took place on December 2, 2011.


Cast and crew

Stanisława Celińska, Ewa Dałkowska, Adam Ferency, Małgorzata Hajewska-Krzysztofik, Wojciech Kalarus, Marek Kalita, Zygmunt Malanowicz, Maja Ostaszewska, Piotr Polak, Jacek Poniedziałek, Magdalena Popławska

Direction: Krzysztof Warlikowski

Adaptation: Krzysztof Warlikowski, Piotr Gruszczyński

Dramaturgy: Piotr Gruszczyński

African Tales by Shakespeare Programme

Set design and costumes: Małgorzata Szczęśniak

Lighting design: Felice Ross

Music: Paweł Mykietyn

Choreography: Claude Bardouil

Video: Kamil Polak

Technical manager: Paweł Kamionka

Assistant to the set designer: Marcin Chlanda

Assistant director and video projections: Katarzyna Łuszczyk

Stage manager: Łukasz Jóźków

Light: Dariusz Adamski

Sound: Mirosław Burkot

Make up and hair: Monika Kaleta

Props: Tomasz Laskowski

Stage: Kacper Maszkiewicz

Wardrobe: Elżbieta Fornalska, Ewa Sokołowska


Select Photos by Magda Hueckel and Konrad Pustoła

scene from Othello


scene from King Lear


scene from The Merchant of Venice


Further Reading

About the show (from theater company website) –

About the show (from web portal devoted to Polish culture) –

About the director (from web portal devoted to Polish culture) –



Production notes provided by Maria Sequeira Mendes, Assistant Professor, School of Arts and Humanities – University of Lisbon.



African Tales by Shakespeare


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