Shakespeare's Globe to take Hamlet on world tour
Shakespeare's Globe theatre is to take Hamlet to every nation on earth - including some which have never before seen a professional production of Shakespeare's tragedy.
The ambitious tour will mark two anniversaries - 23 April 2016 is 400 years since the Bard's death.
The events will also link in with the 450th anniversary of the playwright's birth next April.
The Globe's artistic director Dominic Dromgoole called the event "a thrill".
The theatre will spend two years touring the play to every country on the planet - almost 200 of them, ending on 23 April 2016.
The hope is the same actors will perform the play worldwide, staying abroad for about two months at a time. When suggested to Dromgoole it might prove a daunting commitment for his cast, he disagreed.
"People are knocking on the door already. What a thing to tell your grandchildren about one day. In many ways it's an actors dream," he said.
The Globe production of Hamlet has already been seen in Germany and the US, amongst other countries, since 2011.
"It's very pared down and runs at about two and a half hours which is short for Hamlet. There's a cast of eight, taken from a group of 12 touring players in all," he said.
"We already know this production works in all sorts of venue - whether it's a charismatic national theatre with glistening chandeliers or a simple market square. Or just in a field.
"It's a slightly mad extension of our Globe to Globe project last year, when we had 37 Shakespeare plays in 37 different languages staged in London by companies from around the world. The contacts made last year are already proving crucial to deciding some of the places we'll visit."
Dromgoole said the choice of play was straightforward: "Hamlet's a fantastically rich and various play. It can provoke or challenge or comfort or inspire. And it's funnier than people think.
"I imagine in Germany or the US we'll mainly have audiences who know the play well. But what a thrill to play to people meeting Hamlet for the first time - the same experience that Shakespeare had."
The artistic director added that although detailed planning is still to be done, he believed "we'll hare through Europe pretty quickly, just doing one or two performances in each place - but even that's around 50 countries".
"We're hoping to do the Caribbean mainly by boat - I can't deny it'll be tempting to slow the pace a bit. And the Pacific Islands will entail a lot of plane hopping," he said.
"I think a year in it'll be fascinating to see what barnacles have stuck to the production as it travels. It won't feel the same in Tuvalu as it did at Elsinore in Denmark.
"People associate Shakespeare with London and especially with the Globe. That's gratifying but in fact, his company toured a lot in England and it went abroad too. There was a touring circuit through the Low Countries into northern Germany and even to Poland.
"Perhaps four centuries ago Shakespeare, like us, found it doesn't always matter if the audience has imperfect English. There's the physicality of the performance and the relationships between the characters. People usually grasp the psychology quite easily."
Shakespeare's Globe opened in 1997, constructed a few minutes from the site of the original 1599 theatre. It receives no public subsidy so, financially, the new project is ambitious.
Yet Dromgoole said he relished the discoveries the tour will bring, even if he'll be hearing about them from London.
"There's something extraordinary about putting drama before an audience abroad which has limited English. It X-rays the play.
"It's like you flash a light and suddenly you see what the bone-structure is like within. We'll benefit from this tour at least as much as our audiences."