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Translating Shakespeare: 2012's Globe to Globe Festival
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Translating Shakespeare: 2012's Globe to Globe Festival

Picture of Kate Kelsall
Updated: 12 October 2016
The Globe Theatre has long been committed to the international understanding of Shakespeare’s work and in 2012 it initiated a hugely ambitious project: the Globe to Globe Festival. During this festival, the Globe Theatre staged 36 Shakespeare plays in 36 languages over a 6 week period. We remember this exciting cultural festival.

In 2012 the home of Shakespeare, the Globe Theatre, chose to celebrate the World Shakespeare Festival in a unique way, highlighting the way in which the Bard’s work had influenced communities across the globe. Thus the Globe launched the Globe to Globe Festival in which a huge selection of acclaimed and innovative international theatre companies travelled to London to perform their distinctive takes on Shakespeare’s plays. Cymbeline was staged by a South Sudanese company in Juba Arabic, whilst Titus Andronicus appeared in Cantonese and Hamlet in Lithuanian. These all formed part of a programme that Dominic Dromgoole, the artistic director behind the project, called ‘bizarre and exciting’. Some other highlights included a Maori rendition of Troilus and Cressida by the director of the acclaimed 2002 film Whale Rider, the three Henry IV plays divided between Serbia, Albania and Macedonia to form ‘The Balkan Trilogy’ and Deafinately Theatre Company translated Love’s Labour Lost into sign language.


The Globe

Whilst the decision to go and watch Shakespeare in a language which is not your own may seem a little off the wall, the experience could brought fresh new perspectives on old material. As the world’s most famous playwright is adored across the globe it was interesting to see how his themes and narratives were adapted to different histories, politics and cultures. Shakespeare’s universality was used to highlight common threads that run through all cultures. The programme also highlighted the particular story behind each theatre company, some of whom worked underground or in war zones, and who used their interpretation of Shakespeare’s plays to elucidate their particular social and cultural context. As the programme’s organisers stated: ‘Shakespeare is the language which brings us together better than any other, and which reminds of our almost infinite difference, and of our strange and humbling commonality’.


Globe to Globe was part of the World Shakespeare Festival and also an offshoot of the Cultural Olympiad which ran a wide range of cultural events in parallel with the 2012 Olympics. An incredible festival for all theatre lovers, Globe to Globe highlighted the ability of Shakespeare’s plays to cross all cultural boundaries.


Watch the Globe to Globe trailer below:

By Kate Kelsall


Images courtesy: 1: WikiCommons, 2: Ben Sutherland/ Flickr