Hamlet, Lear line the Thames in London Shakespeare celebrations

LONDON (Reuters) - Some of Shakespeare’s best known characters - Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and King Lear - will be featuring along a stretch of the River Thames this weekend, as part of celebrations to mark the 400th anniversary of the death of England’s greatest playwright.

Short films of the Bard’s plays will be screened along the south bank of the river, while in the middle of the 2.5 mile (km) route, the Globe theater will stage a production of Hamlet which returns to London after touring 189 countries in two years.

Dominic Dromgoole, the artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe theater, said the Hamlet tour, which this month alone has performed in Kabul, Afghanistan, and Elsinore, Denmark, where Shakespeare set the play, demonstrated Shakespeare’s enduring relevance.

“He gives you life, and anything that gives you life rather than takes it away is always going to be popular,” Dromgoole said in an interview on Friday.

Hamlet, the story of melancholy Danish prince and his doubting quest to avenge a murdered father, captured audiences across the world, said Dromgoole.

“In some places it provokes, in some places it challenges, in some places it consoles, in others it inspires,” he said.

Non-English speaking audiences were provided with synopses and translators, with memorable performances taking place in Somaliland, Dromgoole said, remembering the cast being followed by trucks full of “boys with AK47s”.

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They also performed for Syrian refugees at the Zaatari camp in Jordan, where the play was interrupted by a sandstorm, and at the migrant shanty town nicknamed the “Jungle” outside France’s northern port of Calais.

The final performances of the Hamlet world tour will be staged on Sunday in the open-air core of the timbered, curved-walled Globe, a 1990s replica of the famous theater which was burned to the ground in 1613.

Those without a ticket will still be able to celebrate Shakespeare through the film project, named “The Complete Walk”.

It will screen 37 short films, one for each of Shakespeare’s plays, shot in locations from Athens to Vienna where the playwright had set his stories but never visited.

Highlighting Shakespeare’s international appeal, the Complete Walk is also being exported to cities beyond Britain including Madrid, Gdansk and Taipei.

Shakespeare’s birth place Stratford-upon-Avon will also host celebrations and a parade on Saturday and Sunday.

Writing by Sarah Young, additional reporting by Sara Hemrajani; editing by Stephen Addison