While Juba reaches springtime temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius, an unseasonable London chill had audience members sitting in the open-air theatre wrapped in coats, scarves, and blankets.
Actors ran around on stage barefoot, the women often wearing skirts and bra tops, never betraying even a shiver.
“It was a very big challenge, that weather,” Alfred said. “If you change the costume, if you put something under it you will be destroying the culture. We told them, ‘Don’t feel the cold. Just feel warm and send that warmth to the people in the auditorium and they will also feel that warmth.”
To counteract the depersonalizing connotations of the phrase “ran around on stage,” you can get to know the company here.
I did find it striking how certain things were intentionally NOT localized to South Sudan (the knighting ceremony for Belarius & sons: “I dub thee” etc.) but the costumes were. In many cases they seemed designed not to convey character (except for the khaki-shorts imperial police uniform) but to showcase local traditions: not only the bras & beads but things like the doctor/soothsayer’s animal headdress. The production synopsis promises:
Costume that distinguishes between north and south Sudanese gestures at the history of empire and the struggle for nationhood on equal terms.
It quotes Alfred again:
We have brought in and bought a lot of costumes from different tribes that we have to celebrate the cultural diversity of southern Sudan. People in London are going to see something very different.