Death of a Queen is a South African mini-series produced by Mud Hut Productions and adapted from Macbeth as part of the SABC1 "Shakespeare in Mzansi" strand, a collection of mini-series which contemporise various works of Shakespeare into a South African context.
It is the last of four mini-series which began airing on SABC1 on Tuesdays, from 11 March 2008. The others are Entabeni (Macbeth), Izingane zoBaba (King Lear) and uGugu no Andile (Romeo and Juliet).
Death of a Queen premiered on SABC1 on Tuesday 29 July 2008, at 20h30. There are six half-hour episodes in the series.
When Prince Malôrô returns victorious with Mugudo, his right-hand man and friend, from negotiations to ensure the preservation of the Kingdom, he encounters three male witchdoctors who address him as ‘Guardian of the Sacred Forest’ and future King of Mapungubwe.
Malôrô dismisses the thought outright. For the prophecy to come to pass, history would have to be turned on its head and his own younger sister, the Rain Queen, would have to die.
On returning to the palace, the Queen bestows the title 'Guardian of the Sacred Forest’ on her brother in recognition for his success in calming the rioting squatters... this blatant proof that the prophecy is real shakes Malôrô to his core.
Nobody except the Queen’s motherly advisor, MaModumedi notices.
The prophecy unleashes the ambition Malôrô has secretly carried for a long time. When his wife Grace hears of this prophecy, she spurs him on.
As Proxy for the Queen, he is the one who acts on her behalf in all matters outside the court. To become King would be a natural step for him.
This is his time. Kings once ruled this small Kingdom. An argument ensues when Malôrô refuses to entertain the thought of killing his own sister. Grace challenges Malôrô’s manhood, urging him to take action.
Mugudo enters, overhearing the row. Neither Malôrô nor Grace knows how much he has heard. Mugudo confronts Malôrô about his foolishness to believe the witches. Malôrô panics and tries to stop Mugudo from leaving, petrified that he will divulge what he had overheard; Malôrô and Grace plotting to kill the Queen.
In a blind rage he kills Mugudo, plunging a knife deep into his back. Malôrô stares in horror at his friend, dead at his feet, by his own hand.
Grace and Malôrô covers up Mugudo’s death as a random hijacking. The Queen performs a rainmaking ceremony in honour of her brother and the skies open as the rain falls.
News of the death of Mugudo, her secret lover and father of her only child, Puno, reaches the Queen. She is devastated and defies her brother and court custom, going to the morgue to see her slain lover’s body.
Malôrô is unprepared for the Queen’s visit when she tells him that Mugudo was murdered before the hijacking. Somebody connected to the court plunged a knife in his back and killed him.
The writing is on the wall. Malôrô knows he can no longer shy away from what needs to be done.
With Grace urging him on, Malôrô murders his sister. The death of the Queen throws the realm into chaos. Malôrô emerges as the pillar of strength in this terrible time and he takes the final step, declaring himself King of Mapungubwe.
Besides the disappearing rains and encroaching drought, all seem well. Grace glows in her position as his Queen and the Royal Council and the people embrace their new King. MaModumedi quietly moves into the little girl Puno’s room, keeping watch over the child.
While Malôrô faces the growing demand for rain, Grace moves into the palace. MaModumedi, now in service of her new mistress, Grace, watches the dismantling of everything connected with her late Queen with growing fear and mistrust.
Malôrô can no longer put off the need for him as Rain King to perform a rainmaking ceremony. During the celebration Malôrô sees the ghost of his dead friend, Mugudo and the sister he murdered.
The seeds of fear have been planted in a courageous man’s heart. The storm clouds gather, the skies darken, the wind blows, but not a drop of rain falls. Whispers turn to rumours of foul play in the Queen’s death.
Malôrô visits the witches once more, demanding to know why the rains did not come. The witches point to the little girl, rightful successor to the throne. While Puno is still alive, he will not succeed as the Rain King.
Malôrô returns to the palace and calls for the banishment of the little girl, but MaModumedi has already flown the coup with the Princess.
Malôrô is outraged and orders all girl-children of Puno’s age and height to be brought to the court. He orders the Princess to be killed.
His decree unleashes the anger and defiance of the mothers of the Kingdom. Children are hidden away from the vengeful King’s men, while MaModumedi and Princess Puno, disguised as a boy, and are in hiding in the Sacred Forest where the stirrings of a rebellion amongst the betrayed squatters gain strength.
Slowly the women of the nation realise that with the ascension of a man to the throne, men all over the Kingdom are demanding the return of all power and authority to them. The rebellion grows, women of all ages leading the cry.
Malôrô, gripped by fear, turns to Grace, but finds her wandering the corridors of the palace at night, unable to sleep, plagued by the spirits of the dead demanding that she owns up to her deeds, setting them free to rest.
Malôrô, his sleep-deprived mind finding conspiracies and enemies around every corner, becomes a bloodthirsty tyrant, killing anybody who might stand in his way.
The parched earth begins to crack as the drought takes on catastrophic proportions. The wilting Sacred Forest sparks outrage and dissent. Malôrô clings to the prediction of the witches, that he is invincible.
The omen of his downfall will be when the Sacred Forest marches upon the palace. An unthinkable event.
The rebellion gains momentum and finally, the Sacred Cycad Forest marches on the Kingdom. With the rebels at the gate, Grace gives in to the voices of the dead and takes her own life.
Malôrô, on seeing his wife dying, defies the ancestral spirits in the face of MaModumedi’s vengeful spear. He proclaims the witches’ final words; that no human of woman born can end his reign.
MaModumedi announces that she was torn from her late mother’s dead womb. Before MaModumedi spears the King she tells him that his own best friend, Mugudo, is the father of his late sister’s girl child... rightful successor to the throne. Malôrô dies.
The girl child, Princess Puno, is returned. The storm clouds gather. A drop of rain explodes onto the dust. The shout echoes across the realm:
"The King is dead. Long live the young Rain Queen!"
The Rain Queen
She is a vibrant, willful, modern young woman and mother of a young daughter. She struggles to adjust to the demands of her traditional role as Queen with her university education which, poses a threat to the traditionalists within the court.
Her one flaw is that she adores her older brother and trusts his insights into how to marry the modern with the traditional.Puno
The Queen’s 7-year old daughter.MaModumedi
Puno’s nanny and the Queen’s confidante.Kgosana Malôrô Lerothodi
The 33-year-old brother of the Queen and Prince of the Kingdom of the Mapungubwe people.
His name means: “He will come presently”, a source of bitter humour within his volatile marriage, as he has very little power in this Matriarchal Kingdom.
He is passionately in love with his wife, Grace, but due to his lack of power he is losing her love.Grace Lerothodi
Married Prince Malôrô for more than love. His Royal lineage inspired visions for her future, but now, at 26 and working as a Royal Attendant to the Queen, she is trapped in disappointment, an impotent witness to feminine power.
The prophecy unleashes her true being and politically expedient nature. An arch manipulator parading as a devout traditionalist, she is a woman whose determination justifies whatever ends are required to reach her goal.Mugudo
30-year-old lover of the queen, father of Puno and best friend of Malôrô.Rarantsha
He is in his mid twenties and the Leader of the Witchdoctors. A young, very beautiful man who has the sweetness of good emanating from his features. Yet he is the most dangerous of the three witchdoctors.
Reinforcing the theme of "all is not what it seems", he uses his beauty and power to perform his evil deeds. His animal spirit-totem and familiar is the hyena.Dikanetsa
In his mid forties, he is a strange mixture of a young innocent boy’s face on the body of an old man. Sly, his eyes never missing a thing, he is devious and evil right the way through.
As his name explains, he is the one who counts the ribs to see where the knife must penetrate. His animal spirit-totem and familiar is the black crow.Kganyogago
Early sixties, he is a typical cackling old man who laughs all too easily at the darkest deeds done to mortals. He is despicable to look at and reinforces the stereotypical vision of a witchdoctor.
As his name implies, he is riddled with greed. It pours in a foul smell from his every pore. His spirit-totem and familiar is the African Boomslang.CreditsWriter
Pieter GrobbelaarDirector of Photography
Rory O'GradyWardrobe Design
Natalie LundonProduction Design
Ilse vd MerweArt Director