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It seems that Hamlet, the perpetually indecisive young prince of William Shakespeare’s enduring tragedy, has finally decided to pull his socks up and make productive use of his time. He’s going on a world tour.
Shakespeare’s Globe theatre – that’s the painstaking replica of the original Elizabethan home of Shakespeare’s work – is marking the time between the 450th anniversary of the Bard of Avon’s baptism (on April 26, 2014) and the 400th anniversary of his death (23 April, 2016) by taking his psychological and supernatural masterpiece on tour to every single nation on earth, the first time a single stage production has achieved such a feat.
Dominic Dromgoole, of the Globe, explained to BBC News that he has already had actors expressing an interest in the tour, which will see them travelling for two months at a time:
“It’s very pared down and runs at about two and a half hours which is short for Hamlet. There’s a cast of eight, taken from a group of 12 touring players in all.
“People are knocking on the door already. What a thing to tell your grandchildren about one day. In many ways it’s an actors dream.”
He explained why they decided to go with the story of the introspective Danish prince, rather than, say, Romeo and Juliet:
“Hamlet’s a fantastically rich and various play. It can provoke or challenge or comfort or inspire. And it’s funnier than people think.
“I imagine in Germany or the US we’ll mainly have audiences who know the play well. But what a thrill to play to people meeting Hamlet for the first time – the same experience that Shakespeare had.”
But won’t the essential experience of actors in a theater be the same wherever they are? Seems not.
“We’re hoping to do the Caribbean mainly by boat – I can’t deny it’ll be tempting to slow the pace a bit. And the Pacific Islands will entail a lot of plane hopping.”
“I think a year in it’ll be fascinating to see what barnacles have stuck to the production as it travels. It won’t feel the same in Tuvalu as it did at Elsinore in Denmark.”
And it’s not as if Shakespeare himself was unused to taking his plays out on the road:
“People associate Shakespeare with London and especially with the Globe. That’s gratifying but in fact, his company toured a lot in England and it went abroad too. There was a touring circuit through the Low Countries into northern Germany and even to Poland.
“Perhaps four centuries ago Shakespeare, like us, found it doesn’t always matter if the audience has imperfect English. There’s the physicality of the performance and the relationships between the characters. People usually grasp the psychology quite easily.”
And yes, they will be performing in Elsinore, Denmark.