fri 12/07/2024

How Globe to Globe Staged the World | reviews, news & interviews

How Globe to Globe Staged the World

How Globe to Globe Staged the World

37 memories of 37 plays in 37 languages from the Shakespeare season's festival director

Chicago Shakespeare Theater gladhandle Globe to Globe's groundlingsSimon Kane

Over the past six weeks, we at the Globe have put on a festival called Globe to Globe. The concept (an idea of Dominic Dromgoole’s) was always very simple to explain: all of Shakespeare’s plays, each in a different language. But the reality of that, of course, was unprecedented, unwieldy and just plain large.

It’s impossible, particularly with hangovers literal and metaphorical, to sum up what it meant to the hundreds of actors, the tens of thousands of audience members (the vast majority of whom had never been to the Globe before), or the hardy souls who stood through every single play. All I can offer at the moment is 37 memories, and an invitation:

  1. A dark, cold day in April. Trepidation. Twenty singers from South Africa are on the stage, and the stark click-click of Venus’ Xhosa begins. This might work. Languages can be arresting, odd, music in themselves.
  2. The Maori leader, Agamemnon, enters the theatre at lunchtime, carrying his sleeping child like Lear, eyes bulging, tongue out. Formidable. We all rub noses. Some weep.
  3. A post-show speech by the Muscovite actor playing Angelo and the Duke. 6’ 8”, terrifyingly austere, a wide smile beams across his face. The spell of the theatre has worked on him.
  4. A somersault and a giggle-riot from a Tanzanian Falstaff in a gargantuan fat suit.
  5. Watching Pericles (pictured right) in the chilly upper gallery on a helicopter-blighted night. But, look, I’m surrounded by Greeks glugging wine – their theatre for the night.
  6. Mumbai’s Olivia, her first Shakespeare, screams Cesario! into the very English rain, head bobbing.
  7. My mind is tossing on the ocean. A freight ship is stuck, and Richard III has no props and no costumes. A stage management miracle (one of many), and we go on. Richard kisses the sodden stage.
  8. Korean fart jokes.
  9. The part of Julius Caesar being played by a chair.
  10. An assumption: the South Sudanese actors would abscond and stay in London. Avoid difficulties back home. Wrong: it is too cold, not much going on – not interested. After the joyous, uncoordinated, curtain call, back to Juba.
  11. Standing on Bankside flyering for the heart-rending Titus, desperate to move people.
  12. Backstage with actors from Palestine, drinking tea, talking theatre.
  13. Wiggling and sliding on a Saturday afternoon with my brother, once a hip-hop fan, in the middle of the yard.
  14. Tower Hamlets’ Tempest.
  15. Sex, drugs and disco from southern Poland, on a Tuesday lunchtime. A refreshingly un-Macbethy Macbeth (pictured below).
  16. How on earth will two actors be able to keep people’s attention? It wouldn’t work in English, never mind Shona. Cue roaring and sobbing.
  17. 4am and I am still drinking caipirinhas in Dalston talking about obscure Shakespeare history plays with the producer of the Belgrade National Theatre and the Times’ Arts Correspondent.
  18. A ten-foot square Albanian flag is raised onstage while a children’s tea party takes place in the yard.
  19. At the Balkan party, Serbians dance with Albanians, and Macedonians dance with a Greek girl from our marketing team. Naïve notions of world peace.
  20. Hotspur, a Mexican badass, sprints at full pelt across a wet forestage in his anger.
  21. Lots of Argentines waving Union Jacks in central London. A contemporary Henry IV Part 2.
  22. Armenians: Shakespeare is ours. Us: no, it’s ours. Our German producer: no, it’s actually ours. Today, the Armenians have it.
  23. In King Lear (pictured right), people who know tyranny and despotism doing tyranny and despotism.
  24. Georgian priorities, in reverse order: try not to embarrass everyone else by doing a jaw-dropping show; persuade everyone that Georgian wine is better than French; find a place for 21st cigarette break of day.
  25. A Volvo estate needs to get onstage for the middle-aged Romeo to wail his Juliet’s apparent death. Crane is too expensive. Cometh the hour, cometh our technical team with a big saw.
  26. Coriolanus with five actors, three baguettes and some toy trumpets.
  27. At the curtain call of a staggering show, quiet. A thousand hands wave in the air instead. The first BSL Shakespeare.
  28. Our Gujarati cast embrace a young actor from Pakistan from the Shrew company, the latter wearing his national cricket shirt. All’s well.
  29. All the Nigerians’ visas have been rejected. How on earth can you do a Cultural Olympiad and then not let people in? Finally, 14 allowed in for a re-staging and an unforgettable coup.
  30. Simultaneous Urdu translation from my fellow audience members, concerned at my lack of Urdu.
  31. A man sprints onto the stage for his first entrance, and the theatre whoops and cheers: star of Istanbul and of Green Lanes, Haluk Bilginer.
  32. A loud production, in every sense, ends with a silent Israeli walking round a stage on his own.
  33. A leg of jamon iberico, after the justified wailings of Catherine of Aragon. Madrid bites back.
  34. A company of actors from Kabul doing comedy. Hope.
  35. Our movement director swooning at various German actors, occasionally naked.
  36. Listening to a chanson from behind the balcony in the light-footed Parisian Much Ado. Consider lighting a gauloise then remember am in large thatched building in central London.
  37. Hamlet, done true and nasty, as a wild Claudius smashes ice all over our summery stage.

The end of the cycle comes with the Globe production of Henry V, starting tomorrow. Hearing that play in English will be both exhilarating and uncanny for all of us. Our great hope is that audiences who’ve joined us for Globe to Globe come back here to watch this story, and Shakespeare’s other stories, again – whether their language is English or Bangla, German or Arabic, Polish or Cantonese. There is a demonstrable love for these stories throughout London, throughout the real, full London, and beyond the current theatregoing public. This is much more a beginning than an end.

Globe to Globe is part of the World Shakespeare Festival for the London 2012 Festival


It has been the best moment in my life to come at this Festival. However, I wish I could have watched more plays. Will you release a DVD ?

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