This week I came across an article on Newsweek about the Globe Theatre performing Hamlet in the Calais jungle.
Globe to Globe is a touring company of sixteen actors, performing across the continents with the aim of performing Hamlet to as many people as possible, in as many places as possible. The tour began on Shakespeare’s 450th birthday, April 23rd, 2015, and will end on April 23rd, 2016. On Globe to Globe’s website they say, “So far Hamlet has been performed in over 150 countries, to more than 100,000 people and travelled over 150,000 miles. The tour was granted UNESCO patronage for its engagement with local communities and its promotion of cultural education.” Last week Good Chance Calais, a theatre space in Calais, brought in Globe to Globe to the Calais jungle.
In 2002, migrants set up camp on unoccupied land in Calais, France, periodically moving to new locations when displaced by the French authorities. Calais is a major ferry port in northern France for ferries between the country and England. These migrants are a mixture of refugees, asylum seekers, and economic migrants. Around 4,000 refugees from countries including Syria, Afghanistan, and Eritrea are camped out, desperate to reach England.
I saw the Globe’s Hamlet, brought to ArtsEmerson during our freshman year at BU (not Globe to Globe). I loved it, I thought it was cool to see a Globe production here in Boston. But truth being told, I would have had a hard time getting through the production had I not spent a good chunk of time in my high school English class working on the play in addition to a day in Drama Literature dedicated to the play. Shakespeare is HARD! And even tougher for “regular folks” to understand, just ask any of my parents’ friends who have seen me in a play by Shakespeare. NOW add the language barrier! What?! Fortunately, Globe to Globe provides synopses of Hamlet in multiple languages to their audiences. They also cut down the length of their performances to make shows appropriate for different venues and audiences.
Supposedly there was a threat of danger towards the end of the performance of Hamlet. Tom Bird, the executive producer of the show said, “People were trying to cut through to the backstage. There were a lot of knives around. That’s what really put me on edge. They were visible and out.” Nobody was hurt and there was no reported damage besides a few slashes in Good Chance’s tent.
I understand the importance of Globe to Globe taking Shakespeare to people who might otherwise not be able to see it. I really love the idea of Good Chance Calais providing a theatre space to those who want to share their stories. My question is, did the people of Calais need this performance of Hamlet? What story would serve these people better? Or is the story of young Hamlet, a man yearning for a better future, actually the right choice?