Going around the globe with Hamlet

Bard revisited

Going around the globe with Hamlet

The Globe Theatre, UK, has taken the phrase all the world’s a stage a little too literally. About 12 actors are celebrating William Shakespeare’s 450th birth anniversary with a remarkable, ambitious project titled ‘Globe to Globe’.

    Launched in April 2014, the actors are globetrotting and performing an abridged version of ‘Hamlet’ for a little more than two hours. Be it in the picturesque Himalayan ridges of Bhutan or a politically-ridden country like Sri Lanka, the aim of the venture is to bring ‘Hamlet’ to fresh ears and let people enjoy the play in places where Shakespeare is still revered.

Excitement and anticipation rang through the City when Bengalureans heard that ‘Hamlet’ will be staged at Rangashankara. Hosted by The Oberoi in MG Road, the actors enjoyed their hurried and brief encounter here.

Despite tiring journeys of travelling in planes, buses and boats to put up the play, the actors are full of smiles and rich stories to talk about — from travelling to remote places, establishing an organic connect with the audience to the challenges they had to overcome.

   “Where do I start?”, says Ladi Emeruwa, when asked about his memorable experience throughout the tour. One who essayed the role of Hamlet, he says, “Every journey has been so special – be it running through falls, galloping the pyramids of Giza and performing at an outdoor venue in Nepal.” Jennifer Leong, a nimble-footed actress who played Ophelia, loved acting at the variety of venues and believes that a part of the tour is learning how to adapt in various countries. “We put up productions outdoors, indoors, under the stars, in the rain and the wind...” she rattles, in a sing-song voice. 

And they were just as excited to relive a joyful experience here too. Keith Bartlett, a multi-faceted actor who played Claudius, Polonius, the ghost and grave digger, enjoyed the energy in the City.

    Beruce Khan lauded the welcoming vibe of Bengaluru, while struggling to eat an
‘appam’. But it’s not only the country that they love, it’s the play as well. Arguably the
best tragedy by the Bard, Beruce says, “We chose to produce Hamlet because of the rich depth and universal themes it touches. Every one knows the famous quote – to be or not to be. Jennifer considered it a gift to be given the role of ‘Ophelia’ and Ladi, at points, wasn’t hesitant to say that he felt like Hamlet. “I may not be as intelligent as him but I am in self-doubt and question my mind and actions, like most youngsters.”

But touring also comes with a large number of hurdles and the actors from London had to face quite a few – such as adapting to the climate and getting used to the venues.

   Phoebe, who also donned the character of Ophelia, recalls, “We were touring Ireland near South Pacific and our costumes and props went missing. So we performed Hamlet for two weeks in our own clothes. We also had people falling sick as they couldn’t adjust to the climate so easily but despite these hardships, the enjoyable experience that the countries gave us outweighed everything.”

They also enjoyed establishing an organic relationship with the audience; mellow and quiet in a few places while voluble and energetic in some. Beruce said, “Audiences who didn’t know English understood the play with our acting and moves which was a rich experience. We had to cut a few quartos. A few cultures were also not keen on showcasing Christian idolatory or explicit costumes or scenes so we respected that but kept the essence of the play.”

However, what surprised and humbled many actors was the relevance of Bard’s work even today, including in places where English is not the main language. And in modern times, where Shakespeare is re-told by local theatre groups and re-hashed by Bollywood, Globe Theatre putting up an original work is like a breath of fresh air. ‘Hamlet’ was staged in association with the British Council and was also livestreamed.

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