The World Shakespeare Festival kicked off last week with a performance in Maori at the Globe Theatre in London.
Troilus and Cressida, with the action transferred from the Trojan War to a conflict between Maori tribes, was the first of a planned 37 performances in 37 different languages.
Othello’s struggles against racism are to be “smashed up and lyrically rewritten over original beats” for an urban US setting, while the warring families of Romeo and Juliet are reimagined as rival Muslim sects in modern day Iraq.
The run at the Globe is part of a worldwide celebration of Shakespeare’s works. Other events around Britain include ones in Newcastle, Birmingham, Brighton, South Wales, Edinburgh and of course Stratford-upon-Avon.
The plays have dazzled critics. But they are performed without subtitles—so may not be the most accessible theatre experience.
The inclusion of a performance by the Habima National Theatre of Israel has already provoked opposition from literary figures such as Mike Leigh and Miriam Margoyles.
Mark Brown, a member of the executive of the International Association of Theatre Critics, spoke to Socialist Worker in a personal capacity.
“By performing in the illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories, Habima has made itself a party to the dispossession and oppression of the Palestinians,” he said.
“Such a theatre company is an instrument of Israeli state. It should be no more welcome in Britain today than the rugby and cricket teams of apartheid South Africa were in the 1960s and 1970s.”
It just goes to show that there’s always more politics to Shakespeare than some would like to admit.
World Shakespeare festival across Britain, www.worldshakespearefestival.org.uk