Members of London's famous Globe Theatre met local journalists at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina on Monday, shortly before the troupe's only performance in Egypt.
The visit comes as part of the theatre troupe's two-year world tour, which will see them performing Shakespeare’s iconic tragedy Hamlet in over 200 countries. Egypt is the 67th country to host Globe's touring play.
“This trip is part of the chain of Africa tour,” Tamsin Mehta, the play’s associate producer, announced at the beginning of the press conference. Before Egypt, Hamlet was performed in Algeria and Tunisia.
“Every time we perform it is completely different. We’ve performed in theatres, villages, squares, beaches…. there are many variations that this show carries,” Phoebe Fildes, one of the actors said.
“We are at the mercy of our audiences and their generosity to come in hundreds. Everywhere we go there are many people who come. It is very humbling,” she continued.
During their show in Algeria, some people could not get into the theatre because of over capacity.
On the challenge posed by constant mobility, the troupe said: “We carry all we need in boxes. We are travellers who are less concerned with expressing the academic nuances, but rather we tell a story.”
The tour has so far taken the play to countries in the Americas, the Caribbean and Eastern Europe. As such, the question of cultural relevance becomes pertinent.
“Hamlet is a family tragedy. You grieve for your parent or sister… we can all take something from it,” explained Fildes, who said that one of the reasons the director Dominic Dromgoole, chose Hamlet was that it is a story that is accessible in different parts of the world. She added that when planning the tour, the director was hesitating between Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet.
“When we started the tour we thought that there could be a big difference between different people, but as we travelled we discovered that more or less humans are the same everywhere,” actress Amanda Wilkin told members of the press.
“I don’t feel that at any place [we’ve performed in] the play didn’t land, and this goes back to the writer,” she added.
The play is a tragedy set in the Kingdom of Denmark. Hamlet, a Danish prince, seeks to take revenge on his Uncle Claudius, who killed Hamlet's father in order to seize the throne. The play puts the spotlight on universal themes such as revenge, political intrigue and philosophical contemplation.
Rawiri Paratene, a member of the troupe, said that audiences outside the US and other English speaking countries appeared more open to a wider interpretation of the classic Shakespearean tale.
“I feel that in American and English speaking cultures, audiences come with some preconceptions,” he said, adding that this goes to show that language is not always the only a barrier.
Rehearsing for more than one role
A total of 12 actors take part in this version of Hamlet, many shifting between two, three or even four roles. The actors said that this was no easy feat.
Ladi Emeruwa, one of the two actors who play Hamlet, said: “This experience became like a ritual, a process of acting and observing, a process in which we share and exchange ideas on how to interpret a role.”
An actor could play Hamlet's friend on one night and someone who hates Hamlet the following night, a challenging experience which demands a lot of concentration and which everyone seems to enjoy. Switching of the roles helps the play to be different every night.
“Doing Hamlet again 450 years later is a testament to the richness and validity of the play,” said Emeruwa.
Echoing his sentiment, Paratene said: “Hamlet is a student of human behaviour, and this is the reason of his longevity.”
The Globe Theatre, which opened in 1997, is a reconstruction of the original Globe Theatre where Shakespeare's works were performed during his lifetime.
The Hamlet tour, which was launched on 23 April 2014 as part of celebrations marking the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth, aims to visit over 200 countries around the world to perform the iconic play. It will conclude on 23 April 2016.
Ending the press conference, Heba El-Rafaei, Public Relations director revealed that paralleling the world celebrations of the 400th anniversary of the poet's death, Bibliotheca Alexandrina plans to host more works by Shakespeare in April 2016.