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Missed Connections: Antony Sher's Titus Andronicus in Johannesburg

Ball, John Agee (2009) Missed Connections: Antony Sher's Titus Andronicus in Johannesburg. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation is a production history and reception study of the Market Theatre's controversial presentation of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus in 1995. Although directed by Gregory Doran, the star attraction and creative force behind this event was Antony Sher, a celebrity actor with the Royal Shakespeare Company and a luminary in the United Kingdom's South African expatriate community. Johannesburg theatre audiences initially welcomed Sher's self-described "homecoming" and the prestige his performance of Shakespeare would bestow upon that city's traditional Anglophile elite. For his part, Sher saw this event as a stepping stone towards repatriation and the beginning of a more ambitious career as a South African public intellectual. These mutual expectations were disappointed, however, when Johannesburg critics and audiences responded unfavorably to the actual staging of Titus, which featured South African stage accents instead of traditional Received Pronunciation. After Sher publicly countered public antipathy by writing a column accusing Johannesburgers of "philistinism," a bitter quarrel erupted on editorial pages of both South African and British newspapers. It reignited two years later with the release of Sher and Doran's apologia Woza Shakespeare! Titus Andronicus in South Africa. To date, this polemical work has served as the primary history of this affair. Drawing on communitarian philosopher Michael Walzer's theory of "connected criticism," this dissertation offers an alternative reception narrative that locates the failure of this production in the rhetorical mismatch between Sher's advertised intention to celebrate the achievement of racial "reconciliation" in that country and the aesthetic formation of "relevance," (as theorized by Alan Sinfield) that governed Sher and Doran's conceptual efforts to make Titus more accessible to a contemporary South African audience. I argue that Sher's professional immersion in the working methods of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and belated local knowledge of controversial new African National Congress cultural policies (such as the restructuring of the English-language radio station SAfm) diminished his ability to gauge the critical force of his production concept. The result was an inadvertent act of "bait-and-switch" that subsequent rancor over Sher's support for the apartheid-era "cultural boycott" and defensive appeals to "post-colonial Shakespeare" did little to illuminate.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Ball, John
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMcConachie, Brucebamcco@pitt.eduBAMCCO
Committee MemberFavorini, Attiliobucfav@pitt.eduBUCFAV
Committee MemberGeorge, Kathleenkgeorge@pitt.eduKGEORGE
Committee MemberArons,
Date: 29 June 2009
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 11 January 2009
Approval Date: 29 June 2009
Submission Date: 21 April 2009
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Theater Arts
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: ; Alan Sinfield; Antony Sher; Communitarianism; Connected Criticism; Market Theatre; Michael Walzer; Royal Shakespeare Company; South African Theatre; William Shakespeare
Other ID:, etd-04212009-232813
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:40
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:41


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