Saturday 24 February 2018

Hamlet production comes home to the Globe after touring 197 countries

The Globe Theatre is the last stop for the actors who have toured the world with their production of Hamlet
The Globe Theatre is the last stop for the actors who have toured the world with their production of Hamlet

A production of Hamlet that has played to more than 100,000 people in 197 countries over two years has finally returned home to Shakespeare's Globe.

The company of 12 actors embarked on the tour on April 23 2014 and will play their final four shows at the theatre on London's Southbank this weekend to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death.

They played 293 performances at 202 venues ranging from an open air auditorium seating 3,500 people in Sudan to a tennis court at the British Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.

The group had hoped to perform in every country in the world but were unable to enter a few for security reasons, including Syria, Libya and Yemen.

Instead they staged performances in refugee camps, including the Zaatari Camp in Jordan near the Syrian border, the Markazi Camp in Djibouti and to an audience of Central African Republic refugees in Mandjou, Cameroon.

The tour also performed at the Jungle refugee camp in Calais.

They were the first foreign company in 23 years to bring a full play to Somaliland and the first mixed gender company to perform on stage in Saudi Arabia.

The group arrived at the Globe Theatre for a press conference straight from the airport where they had performed their last show on the road in Elsinore, Denmark, in front of the Queen of Denmark.

Ladi Emeruwa, one of the actors who played the title role during the tour, said one of the most special performances for him was in Lagos.

He said: "I'm from Nigeria and most of my family are still there. Almost the entire audience was my family and friends, it was shell shocking. We then went to my old primary school to do the final act for the children."

Naeem Hayat, who also played the Prince of Denmark, said the company sometimes ended up performing in their own clothes and using pool cues for swords when their luggage didn't arrive in time.

Amanda Wilkin, one of the actresses who played Ophelia, said the reactions to the play varied wildly from country to country.

She said: "In some places in the Caribbean there was a lot of commenting, and they were saying things we could hear. I remember in St Vincent I could hear a man say: 'Oh Lord, she's gone mad'. People had really different to reactions."

Miranda Foster, who played Gertrude, said they also had to factor in different cultural sensibilities.

She said: "When we went to Tehran we bought cover-up costumes in Pakistan and had our scarves pinned so our hair wouldn't show.

"What was difficult was men and women couldn't touch each other so we had to find other ways of conveying the intensity so the moment where I touch Ophelia was electric because it was the only time we could touch anyone at all."

Company member Keith Bartlett said he was so moved by what he witnessed on the tour that he is taking a year off from acting to work for charity Mary's Meals to raise £250,000 to feed deprived children.

He said: "To have been part of the greatest theatre tour in history has been a tremendous privilege and was bound to cause a tectonic plate shift in my perception of the world.

"I have been constantly overawed by the beauty of nature and humbled by the kindness of strangers.

"I have also witnessed inequality as never before and realise that I have been lucky enough to live off the cream of the cream."

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