From performing in sweltering deserts, capital and remote cities, heaving marketplaces and on Pacific islands, and despite food poisoning in Mexico, the threat of ambush in Somaliland, an Ebola epidemic in West Africa, and political upheaval in Ukraine, the Globe’s players tirelessly pushed on. They carried their own props, instruments, and costumes throughout the journey, and could construct an entire set in less than two hours. Dromgoole introduces this impressive cast of sturdy souls, recounting the highs and lows of their tour, paying witness to Shakespeare’s power to transcend borders and bring people closer together.
Dromgoole also shows us the world through the prism of Shakespeare and why, in its mystery, it resonates so widely―how a sixteenth-century play can touch the lives of men and women in Sudan, citizens of Beijing, and Syrian refugees alike. Through the lens of this epic theatrical journey, Dromgoole gleans new insight into Shakespeare’s masterpiece, exploring the play’s history, its meaning, and its pleasures, and offering a dramatic and heartfelt testament to Shakespeare’s enduring presence on the modern stage.
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Translated into too many languages to count, and performed more times than Shakespeare ate hot dinners, and cold ones, or drew breath for that matter, Hamlet is one of those rare documents, which can truly be said to have brought the world closer together. In 1608, on board a ship called the Dragon, Hamlet was performed by its crew off the coast of Sierra Leone for a group of visiting dignitaries. The crew remembered enough of the play from what they had seen at the Globe to shamble together a show without a script. Several months later, they did the same in Indonesia. Within ten years of its first performance, groups of English actors, known collectively as the English Comedians, were performing it across Northern Europe in broad, hyper physical productions. Since then it has played everywhere, in theatres, fields, caves, hovels and palaces.
It has tested millions of the greatest actors and actresses, leaving some exhilarated with triumph and some desolate with failure, and all hungering for more. It has been recorded, televised and filmed over and over and over again. It is recited in schoolrooms, quoted in boardrooms, mumbled by lovers, pondered on by sages, argued over by critics, passed on from parent to child, cursed by the student, wept over by the spectator, and stored in the heart as a fortifying secret by millions of us afraid of the bruising of the world. It is part of the fabric that surrounds us. It has become in large part us.
Table of Contents
1 Who's There? 13
2 Honouring the Upbeat 31
3 Setting out Through the Baltics 51
4 Words and Walls in Mitteleuropa 69
5 Madness in Mexico City 82
6 Polonius by the Red Sea 103
7 God on a Pacific Island 125
8 Murder and the Pace Fields 142
9 Soliloquies in the Andes 165
10 News from England 186
11 Wittenberg in the Desert 204
12 The World in Revolt 229
13 Fighting for Eggshells and Revenge 257
14 Mission Control 279
15 Friendship on the Road 294
16 Caesar in Zaatari 316
17 Embattled Theatre Near the Great Rift Valley 336
18 The Rest is Silence 353