Theatre: Umabatha: the Zulu Macbeth Globe Theatre, London
Something similar happens when you watch Shakespeare performed in a foreign language, although in this case it's not the words but the events and characters that seem misleadingly familiar. Umabatha, for instance, seems for the most part like a straight translation of Macbeth into Zulu terms. In Welcome Msoni's version, Macbeth becomes Mabatha, Macduff is Mafudu, Banquo is Bhangane; they wear animal skins, fight with spears and shields, live in kraals rather than castles, and the invading army by which Mabatha is finally defeated comes from Swaziland. Nudged along by helpful surtitles - just enough to keep you posted without distracting too much from the action - it's no trouble to follow the plot, and there are a number of moments when, although the language is unfamiliar, gesture and expression make it clear exactly what is being said: when Mabatha (having first gee'd himself up with what looks like a snort of cocaine) reaches for an invisible dagger, for instance, or when his wife, Kamadonsela, mimes tearing a child from her breast and dashing its brains out.
But, at other points, you can't help wondering whether things are really so straightforward. When the murderers set out to kill Banquo, is their exaggeratedly stealthy walk meant as a joke - it certainly raised a laugh on Monday evening - or is it simply a formalised expression of caution and guilt? Mabatha himself, in Thabani Patrick Tshanini's full-throttle performance, sometimes comes across as a clownish figure: is his discomfort meant to be amusing? In this world, do we assume that Bhangane's ghost is literally there, or is it an expression of Mabatha's guilt? Similar questions arise from any Macbeth; in this case, we have no way of answering them.
In some ways, Umabatha is more "authentic" than any modern Macbeth - Msoni and his athletic, dynamic cast manage to suggest vividly a warrior society, in which fighting prowess is not simply an admirable but incidental attribute, it is central to a man's identity. Not much modern British Shakespeare manages to integrate music and dance with the drama in the easy, thrilling way that this play does. In the end, though, it's not as an African take on Macbeth that you want to see it, but as an original play in its own right, which happens to have a rather similar plot. And on that level, in case you were wondering, it is unfailingly gripping and exciting, a triumph both for Msoni and for Mark Rylance's Globe.
Continues at the Globe to Sat (0171-401 9919)
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 School kitchen manager 'fired from Colorado school for giving hungry students free lunches'
- 2 California man brutally beat 82-year-old Sikh grandfather he mistook for 'one of those people'
- 3 Amber Peat: Body found in search for missing 13-year-old who ran away after argument with her parents
- 4 Gay teenager 'forced to have sex with his own mother' to 'cure' his homosexuality, campaigners in India say
- 5 Charles Kennedy 'had better judgement drunk than many sober politicians' says Ian Hislop
Game of Thrones season 6: George RR Martin doing 'anything he can' to get new book The Winds of Winter out before next HBO series airs
Game of Thrones, Battle of Hardhome: 20-minute Wildlings versus White Walkers battle took a 'solid month' to film
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 9, The Dance of Dragons: Jon Snow returns to The Wall after epic Battle of Hardhome
Touch-screen Teletubbies say hello: Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po are back, now with smart technology
Black Angel: Long lost Star Wars precursor to be made into crowdfunded feature film
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Michael Gove determined to scrap the Human Rights Act – even if Scotland retains it
Threat to scrap Human Rights Act could see UK follow Nazi example, warns UN official
Church of England 'one generation away from extinction' after dramatic loss of followers