Hamlet’s role played by actors of Pakistani and Nigerian origin; a diminutive Chinese as Ophelia; her father and “tedious old fool” Pollonius acted by a Maori actor and activist from New Zealand – the new production of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy by Shakespeare’s Globe has put the world on stage.
And to great effect.
The company of 12 actors and four stage managers interacted with the international media on a sunny morning at the atmospheric theatre space at Shakespeare’s Globe. They are soon to embark on a two-year tour across seven continents and 37 countries, by air, water and land.
Directed by Dominic Dromgoole and Bill Buckhurst, with Tom Bird as executive producer, the production of Hamlet will be staged at a variety of international venues.
With actors from diverse backgrounds and languages bringing an exuberance of accents and interpretations to Shakespeare’s lines, the play will be performed in the English version pared down to two hours and forty minutes.
The production is sparse and no frills, and sets portable. “In terms of the costumes, we’re combining Elizabethan shapes and silhouettes with modern elements – looking a bit like the clothes of a touring company from the 1930’s,” said Mr. Dromgoogle in a interview to writer Kate Bassett.
The role of Hamlet is shared by Ladi Emeruwa, of Nigerian descent, and Naeem Hayat, the hugely talented and upcoming young Pakistani from East London who gave up his job as a painter to join RADA.
“Hamlet’s desires, worries and questions are universally relatable, but coming from my background I was also struck by the nature of family in the play, and the enclosed and shielded environment Hamlet comes from,” said Naeem Hayat, whose understated rendition of Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy for the media is invested with a shy and sheltered sensibility.
Hamlet is the “perfect story” to stage in India and Pakistan, Naeem believes, for it brings out the “basic human similarities” that unite people, without all the “messed up political stuff,” he says.
Rawiri Paratene, the Maori actor and environmental activist (best known for his role in the Oscar-nominated film Whale Rider), plays Polonius, Claudius, and other roles in the play.
“What has made the rehearsal period intriguing and complex is that we have all had to rehearse different roles and combinations,” Mr Paratene says. “As a Maori I have brought my own cultural perspective into the play.” Hamlet is a play in which there are many funerals. “In my culture it is important to lay people to rest, and if this is not done properly, or remains undone, there is foreboding. I talked about this during the rehearsals,” he explains.
Mr. Paratene acted in a Globe production of King Lear that toured the UK, Europe and the Caribbean last year.
The production will be in India in mid-2015. Although dates and venues have not been finalized, the play will visit New Delhi, Mumbai and perhaps one more city, which has not been finalized.