It is the East Study Days: World Shakespeare Globe to Globe Festival

As I mentioned in my last post, the Globe to Globe Festival at Shakespeare’s Globe in London have been putting on a number of study days, lectures on Shakespeare translation and an intercultural Shakespeare symposium in conjunction with the World Shakespeare Festival.  There are always problematic discussions to be had around international Shakespeare festivals – not least, the fact that in the UK they are extremely rare!  Gdansk in Poland holds one every year, Craiova in Romania holds one every two years, we hold one when we get the Olympics… But the politics of international festivals, the impact that big cultural events like the Shakespeare element of the London Cultural Olympiad has on regional and touring Shakespeare, and the contention that as Shakespeare becomes ever more of a brand, his contemporaries (even the biggies like Marlowe, Jonson and Webster) are ever more sidelined – well, that is a topic that I’ll leave for another blogpost.

The Globe to Globe season is, in my opinion, a serious attempt to engage with World Shakespeares and the diverse communities that make up our capital city.  It is the East was a series of study days looking at how Shakespeare has been reconfigured in three very different ‘Eastern’ cultures.  The series never openly addressed why it chose to look only at the East, and not go Westward Ho! or follow in the footsteps of the Kendal family around the Indian subcontinent.  However, the choice of the Middle East, Eastern Europe and East Asia did not seem to be entirely accidental.   Each construction of the East is obviously in relation to the West, but this is not simply a geographical division.   In fact, in 20th and 21st century Western consciousness the anxieties about the ideological and cultural ‘opposition’  of these particular societies to Western values casts them  as a threatening Other.   Thus, there was an unspoken subversiveness in opening the Globe to Globe events with an series that implied that Shakespeare is not only not  a specifically British icon, but that actually he’s gone over to the Other side….

One of the things that I liked best about these study days was that they were aimed at the general public, attracting retired Australian physicists, primary school teachers, actors, MA students, planning officers and translators to name the occupations of just a few of the participants.  The translator, primary school teacher, retired physicist and I attended all three days, others popped in and out according to specific interest.  The Middle Eastern day had the youngest demographic, the Eastern European the oldest, and strangely, the East Asian had the fewest participants.  Another thing that I really appreciated was that the organisors, the Globe Education Department, seemed to be learning about local/global Shakespeares alongside the participants, making it a very relaxed and enjoyably non-academic experience.  They clearly relished and were transformed by the talks and activities, so  I think that we may see Shakespeare at the Globe through an increasingly intercultural lens in the future.  Academics Dennis Kennedy and Yong Li Lan, gave excellent talks, wonderfully illustrated. Kennedy had us trying out Brecht’s rehearsal pieces and Yong introduced the ASIA archive.  As for the Middle Eastern day, I was hoping that they would mention Sulayman Al-Bassam, creator of The Al-Hamlet Summit, so imagine my surprise and delight when we walked in and Al-Bassam was the speaker!  (I will be blogging on this at a later date.) Best of all, however, was that the mornings’ talks were followed by practical drama workshops in the afternoons.  I wasn’t entirely sure about the Russian dramaturg, Jurij Alschitz, who encouraged us to act from our pelvises (!), although a young drama intern loved it, but playing Fruitbowl in Arabic before pretending to protest in Tahrir Square with Khalaal Theatre, and making Chinese shadow puppets with Yellow Earth Theatre to put on a five minute Macbeth was fantastic. And I got to clang some Beijing Opera cymbals…

If you want to read a more detailed account of the actual content of the days, let me point you towards Shekspir’s blog Margate Sands:

Middle East

Eastern Europe 

East Asia

And check out some of the performances if you can!

One thought on “It is the East Study Days: World Shakespeare Globe to Globe Festival

  1. Pingback: Richard III of where? « Shakespeare Travels © Saffron Walkling

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