Janet Suzman on Shakespeare as a protest playwright

The Rose Playhouse

a Zoom talk beginning at 7 pm

Over two lectures, Janet will take us through two specific passages in her formidable career. This first one describes her experience of directing Othello  — a banned play —  in apartheid South Africa, which has many resonances for the Black Lives Matter movement right now.

“The Othello talk is aimed at understanding the apartheid status quo in SA at the time we broke the Equity boycott with this rather controversial production, which hit global headlines due to the time and place. It’s important to remind and inform people what sort of world we were in. And even more importantly, in the light of BLM, that John Kani was the very first black African to play Othello. There had been many fine African-American actors from Ira Aldrich in 1833 onwards, but their mother tongue was English; Kani’s mother tongue is Xhosa.” 

In the second talk (date TBA),she will talk about her take on directing Antony and Cleopatra (many years after her own Cleo at Stratford) with Sex and the City’s liberated Kim Cattrall, which will ring bells for those interested in Shakespeare’s inherently super-aware feminism. Who did Shakespeare have in mind with this part, unique among all the parts he wrote for women?



Janet Suzman, a longstanding Patron of The Rose, was made DBE in 2011 after a long career that began with the groundbreaking Wars of the Roses productions when Sir Peter Hall established the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1964. Major roles for the RSC for the next ten years culminating in Cleopatra. She has always kept strong links with the country of her birth, South Africa, where her directing career began in 1987 by breaking the Equity boycott with a production of Othello — seen as a protest play — at The Market Theatre, Johannesburg. This was three years before Mandela was freed. 

Films include Nicholas and Alexandra (Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations), The Draughtsman’s Contract,A Dry White Season,Priest of Loveand Fellini’s E La Nave Va. TV series include Clayhanger,Mountbatten andThe Singing Detective. Wrote The Free State, based on The Cherry Orchard, which celebrated Nelson Mandela, in 1997. Directed Kim Cattrall in Antony and Cleopatra for Liverpool Playhouse and Chichester. Plays in London include Hedda Gabler,Hello and Goodbye,The Three Sisters,The Greeks,Sisters Rosensweig,Dream of the DogandSolomon and Marion. Opera includes The Marriage of Figaro for RAM. Books include Not Hamlet.

She has won Evening Standard (twice), Critics’ Circle, Manchester Theatre, Helen Hayes and Pragnell Shakespeare awards. Life Fellow of the Shakespeare Association of Great Britain, Honorary Associate Artist of the RSC, Freedom of the City of London and Chair of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles. Honorary D.Lit. degrees from Cape Town, Warwick and London (QMW), among others.  


Tickets are £5 and can be booked through TryBooking by clicking here . You will receive a link to this Zoom event via email. Any additional contributions for The Rose Playhouse will be much appreciated and go towards funding the Rose Revealed Project.

Please note that booking for this event will close at 6.00 pm on 1 September.



The Rose is an indoor archaeological site; it is advisable to dress warmly because there is no heating. There are no toilets, so please use those at Shakespeare’s Globe, which is 200 metres away.

Booking Information

Box Office

020 7261 9565