To stage, or not to stage? Rights groups blast plan to take Hamlet to North Korea

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 March, 2014, 1:36am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 March, 2014, 12:32pm


Human rights groups have questioned the wisdom of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London taking a production of Hamlet to North Korea, but stopped short of calling for the plan to be scrapped.

The Globe will perform the play in the state in September next year as part of a global tour marking the 450th anniversary of the English playwright's birth.

"We do not believe that anyone should be excluded from the chance to experience this play," the theatre said.

But Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division, said exclusion would be the order of the day if it went ahead in Pyongyang.

"It's going to be an extremely limited, elite audience that would see a production in any case," Robertson said yesterday.

"It would have to be in Pyongyang, which is a showcase city whose residents are selected to live there because they have shown their loyalty," Robertson said. "So there's a strict pre-selection process involved right from the off."

Although North Korea is the subject of numerous UN and other international sanctions, there is no cultural boycott or other provision that a performance like that planned by the Globe would violate.

Human rights group Amnesty International urged the theatre to "read up" on the reality of North Korea before going there.

"No tragic play could come close to the misery that the 100,000 people trapped in the country's prison camps endure - where torture, rape, starvation and execution are everyday occurrences," Amnesty said.

The dates for a performance in North Korea have not been set.

The play revolves around family feuds and Hamlet's eventual killing of his uncle, echoing recent events in North Korea where leader Kim Jong-un's regime ordered the execution of his uncle Jang Song-thaek in December last year.