London Shakespeare fest for "world's playwright"

LONDON Wed Sep 7, 2011 5:29am EDT

LONDON (Reuters) - All the world's a stage in Shakespeare's home country as organisers announced the launch of the World Shakespeare Festival in London on Tuesday.

The Apr 23 to Nov 2012 festival, conceived as part of London 2012 Festival and described as an "unprecedented and outrageous collaboration" by organisers, is set to unite Shakespeare fans from across the globe in a multicultural and polyglot appreciation of the Bard in a technological age.

"Previous festivals of Shakespeare have been an old kind of festival, but this World Shakespeare Festival is for a new era," Deborah Shaw, World Shakespeare Festival Director.

A "World Wide Classroom", allowing teachers and pupils around the world to share information about Shakespeare in their culture, as well as the launch of specially commissioned digital materials for schools called "Shakespeare Unlocked", means that participation in the festival is not limited to the people of Britain.

"Four years ago, we began conversations with artists, producers, educationalists and curators from across the UK and the World, to seed and shape a festival that celebrates Shakespeare and redefines what a festival can be in this era of globalisation," Shaw said.

"Anyone in the world can take part in this Shakespeare festival through its digital projects," she said.

The launch comes as the Royal Shakespeare Company RSC.L and the British Council revealed that 50 percent of the world's children study Shakespeare in school.

The more traditional festival staple of performances of the Bard's works will include a lineup of all 37 of his plays in 37 languages at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre on the banks of the river Thames in London. One million tickets will be on sale from Oct 10.

Theatre goers can expect performances in Xhosa and Swahili, as well as theatre companies from Turkey, Greece, Albania, and even a group from New Zealand performing in Maori.

WORLD'S PLAYWRIGHT

The festival programme will also feature 23 brand new productions across Britain, most of which were commissioned specially for the festival.

"The festival will be a carnival of stories - we have theatre companies from warzones as well as underground theatre companies participating," said Dominic Dromgoole, Artistic Director at the Globe.

"A Globe by the Thames is where the wonderful cultural and imaginative journey of these plays began. Another Globe by the Thames is honoured to be inviting Shakespeare back home, dressed in the clothes of many different people," he said.

It is Shakespeare's depiction of human qualities which lends to the success and resonance of his works in other cultures, making him "the world's playwright", organisers say.

"Shakespeare is no longer English property. He is the favourite playwright and artist of the whole world. People of all races, creeds and continents have chosen to gather around his work to share stories of what it is like to be human," said Michael Boyd, artistic director of the RSC.

"Shakespeare is a lingua franca deeper than just any language. It can help us to talk about autocracy and civil war - his works are a brilliant Trojan horse," he said.

(Editing by Paul Casciato)