Global Shakespeare festival opens for London 2012

The festival features a sign language version of Love's Labour's Lost

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A festival that will see Shakespeare's 37 plays performed in 37 languages, from Swahili to sign language, has got under way.

Globe To Globe is just one element of the World Shakespeare Festival, which was launched on Monday, the anniversary of the playwright's birth.

It is part of the London 2012 Festival, which ties in with the summer Olympics.

As well as the multi-lingual plays, there will be dozens of Shakespeare productions across the UK.

Globe To Globe will feature King Lear performed in Belarusian, Hamlet in Lithuanian and Othello re-interpreted through hip-hop.

Members of New Zealand's Ngakau Toa theatre company perform a haka on stage at the Globe theatre New Zealand's Ngakau Toa theatre company will perform Troilus and Cressida

The polyglot performances are taking place at the Globe Theatre, the replica of Shakespeare's original theatre.

Globe To Globe artistic director Tom Bird said it was not difficult to follow the stories even if you did not speak the languages being spoken by the actors.

"What I've found from travelling around the world is that you get an incredible sense of what's going on in a show, even from the way people move on the stage and the things people wear," he said.

"What's surprised me more than anything is the way people have taken Shakespeare to their hearts all around the world.

"People don't think of him as an English poet, they think of him as part of the world culture."

London 2012 - One extraordinary year

London 2012 One extraordinary year graphic

Globe To Globe is part of the wider The World Shakespeare Festival, which is co-ordinated by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

It runs until November and will also feature performances in Stratford-upon-Avon, Newcastle, Gateshead, Birmingham, Edinburgh and at the Eisteddfod in Wales.

Meanwhile, actors including Simon Russell Beale, Meera Syal and Ray Fearon have teamed up with athletes like Jonathan Edwards and Ade Adepitan to recite lines from The Tempest for a short film.

The one-minute film, produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company for the London 2012 Festival, centres on the text that inspired Danny Boyle's Isles of Wonder title for the Olympics opening ceremony.

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