All the word’s a stage for globetrotting production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 August, 2014, 10:08pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 August, 2014, 10:13pm


A production of William Shakespeare's Hamlet that hopes to visit every country in the world in two years arrived at the United Nations, with the tale of the dithering Danish prince getting a boisterous, standing ovation from top diplomats.

The stripped-down Shakespeare's Globe theatre production played inside a chamber in the UN's New York headquarters on Monday for some 500 guests, against a backdrop of real-world crises in Gaza and Ukraine.

"It's an absolute delight to be here. It's extraordinary. It feels very, very odd. But very pleasurably odd," said Dominic Dromgoole, the Shakespeare's Globe artistic director. "We like bold ideas. We like bold, simple - some would say stupid - ideas."

The tour's goal is to visit 205 nations and territories - the numbers are in some flux as statehood demands rage - on seven continents. It landed in New York having already been seen in 28 countries and having logged 31,053km since it began this spring at its London home, a reconstructed Elizabethan playhouse beside the River Thames.

The show is spare: a few steamer trunks, cloth sheets, some wood beams and rope are all the scenery on hand, and the actors play multiple roles as well as instruments such as drums, violins and mandolins. But there's no denying the words and message from an exuberant cast. The audience included actress Kim Cattrall and performance artist Laurie Anderson in the front row.

The troupe, which already has performed in places as diverse as opera halls, marketplaces and beaches, hopes to visit all the world's countries, including North Korea, Syria and Iraq. They also hope to perform in the West Bank, though no firm plans have been announced.

"Inclusivity is a much better policy than exclusivity," said Dromgoole. "If you do start excluding anyone, you do have to ask the question, 'Where do you start and where do you stop?"'

The tour involves a portable set and a 12-person, multicultural cast that includes Hong Kong-born actress Jennifer Leong and Maori actor Rawiri Paratene. The production is directed by Dromgoole and Bill Buckhurst, who travel with four stage managers.