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30

Sep

2013

Into the Intro: Shakespeare Beyond English

 
Shakespeare Beyond English

Go Into the Intro of Shakespeare Beyond English

Shakespeare may be England's playwright, but his plays are a household name all over the world. In Shakespeare Beyond English, go behind the scenes of the Globe to Globe Festival where each of Shakespeare's plays was performed by a different international theatre company to explore what Shakespeare's plays mean when extended beyond the English language.

 

Introduction

On 6 July 2005 the International Olympic Committee announced that London would be the host city for the 2012 Olympics Games. Some two years later (4 June 2007) the ‘London 2012’ brand was launched with the motto to ‘inspire a generation’ – an objective that would be met not just by the main event but also through the staging of a Cultural Olympiad, ‘the largest cultural celebration in the history of the modern Olympic and Paralympic Movements’. And at the heart of this giant undertaking (more than 2,500 cultural projects bore the London 2012 imprimatur) was Shakespeare. As the British Museum–British Petroleum ‘Shakespeare Staging the World’ exhibition (mounted as a centrepiece of this Cultural Olympiad) proclaimed, he
is ‘Britain’s greatest cultural contribution to the world’. Similarly the nationwide World Shakespeare Festival was announced as ‘a celebration of Shakespeare as the world’s playwright’. Representing the most widely distributed and banner component of the Cultural Olympiad celebrations, this Festival was ‘[p]roduced by the Royal Shakespeare Company, in an unprecedented collaboration with leading UK and international arts organisations, and with Globe to Globe, a major international programme produced by Shakespeare’s Globe’; according to the World Shakespeare Festival’s website, ‘it’s the biggest celebration of Shakespeare ever staged’.

Shakespeare Beyond English is about the Globe to Globe Festival, staged 21 April–9 June 2012 at Shakespeare’s Globe, comprising performances of all thirty-seven plays and Venus and Adonis delivered in more than forty different languages (when including the pre-Festival ‘Sonnet Sunday’) and bringing a diversity of international content to audiences as well as to the umbrella organizations of the World Shakespeare Festival, the Cultural Olympiad and London 2012. Contributors to Shakespeare Beyond English review and reflect on these productions to examine questions of cultural authority and global markets, along with ideas about language, nationhood, power, pleasure and more. Why, this book asks, should Shakespeare be at centre stage in London’s remarkable year, and why, when the world was coming to London for such a large-scale sporting event, should Shakespeare be such a dominant and compelling part of London 2012’s brand identity? What was at stake in these global performances at Shakespeare’s Globe, and who were their audiences? The essays address, too, a variety of challenges that these Festival performances, individually and collectively, present to ongoing scholarly debates about the contemporary relevance of Shakespeare’s plays.

The genesis for this project was, however, simpler and certainly less ambitious. It was partly wonder – could the Globe really be planning to bring in thirty-eight different theatre companies, none of which would be English-speaking, to perform in a six-week period? – and partly cynicism – would this be yet another assertion of Shakespeare’s universality by way of the exotic ‘other’ on an English stage? Christie Carson and Farah Karim-Cooper had worked together on Shakespeare’s Globe: A Theatrical Experiment, so when the editors of this volume were curious to discover more about this mammoth event, it was to Karim-Cooper, Head of Research and Courses at the Globe, that we naturally turned. Giving us a snapshot of the Globe’s plans, she asked if we would be interested in spearheading a scholarly response to the Festival, but without specifying what shape that might take. And so we thought, rather predictably, that there was scope for a collection of scholarly essays that might bring new evidence and different points of view to debates about ‘foreign Shakespeare’ that have interested the field at least since Dennis Kennedy’s landmark book of the same name. But Karim-Cooper urged us to consider all of the performances in the Festival rather than a select few and to engage with the full breadth of the ‘world’ that would be showing London audiences their Shakespeare.

Download the full excerpt here.

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