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The touring version of Globe to Globe Hamlet has a cast of 12 actors, including Ladi Emeruwa as Hamlet (left) and Matthew Romain as Horatio.

Worldwide popularity

Singapore is the 129th country to host the two-year touring production of Shakespeare's Globe's Globe to Globe Hamlet.
Sep 4, 2015 5:50 AM

SHAKESPEARE'S most famous play about politics opens at Capitol Theatre next week, just three days before Singapore's polling day. By this, it ticks off the boxes of "thought provoking" for its political and social feuds; as well as "historic" because Singapore is the 129th country in Shakespeare's Globe's two-year, 205-country tour list.

"I doubt that any production has ever played to a bigger range of venues," says Tom Bird, the Globe to Globe Festival director, about Globe to Globe Hamlet, the production that started its tour in London's 16th century Middle Temple Hall in 2014 and will round off at Elsinore Castle in Denmark, where Hamlet is set, in 2016.

In Asia, Singapore and Hong Kong have the longest running periods for the play - five nights each. At most places, the production played for only a night or two. It has also been staged everywhere from uber modern halls to ancient amphitheatres.

This tour marks Shakespeare's 450th birth anniversary, and Shakespeare's Globe decided on this ambitious tour because of the bard's astonishing reach. His works have crossed more geographical territory than any writer's in human history, says Dominic Dromgoole, artistic director of Shakespeare's Globe.

"It's sort of shocking how relevant and pertinent and powerful he still is. He's been gaining traction over the last 20 years, it seems almost exponentially. And I can only see that continuing over the next hundred or so, because there's now a huge enthusiasm for Shakespeare in China, for example, and it's growing in India," he adds.

This touring version of Globe to Globe Hamlet has a cast of 12 actors from around the world. Apart from the two titular leads, the cast members will rotate roles in different performances. It is a very international cast as well, in keeping with the spirit of the times, notes Mr Dromgoole. The two Hamlets are played by Nigerian-born Ladi Emeruwa and London-born Naeem Hayat. Then there is Rawiri Paratene (who starred in the film Whale Rider), a towering figure of the Maori acting scene in New Zealand, who will be playing Claudius and Polonius. Jennifer Leong, protégée of Hong Kong's Tang Shu-wing company, plays Ophelia, Horatio, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

To make it easy to tour, the company also has a scaled down set. "We've learned to be very flexible and playful, with a spirit of improvisation. For Hamlet, we aren't even taking a truck to carry a booth stage. The luggage is the set - a tower of suitcases!" Mr Dromgoole adds.

For costumes, the company has combined Elizabethan shapes with modern elements, so they carry the look of a 1930s touring company. The text is a mix of the Folio text of Hamlet and the First Quarto which is very much a touring version, roughly half the length of the Second Quarto. "That means it's got an energy, with a fast-moving narrative, and clarity," says Mr Dromgoole.

"With this tour, we're also celebrating the fact that the Globe has developed a remarkable host of international relationships and friendships. And that's very much the way the world is going," he adds.

In Singapore, Globe to Globe Hamlet will be the first international production for the newly-opened Capitol Theatre. The show here is produced by Hong Kong-based ABA Productions which has long brought productions from outside Asia to the region.

"Our working relationship with the Globe dates back five years, when we first brought in one of their touring productions," says ABA's executive director, Matthew Gregory. ABA also brought in The Taming of the Shrew in 2013 and A Midsummer Night's Dream last year.

"So we were one of their natural partners for the company - and we hope this won't be the last," he adds.

The Capitol Theatre is a more intimate space than the Esplanade Theatre, and a beautiful venue so Mr Gregory says they went with the former even though the latter was available for booking when they started scouting for venues a year ago.

That Globe to Globe Hamlet will be a seminal play in Singapore's busy theatre calendar is not a doubt for Shakespeare's Globe.

"Shakespeare still has that hold over people, wherever they are in the world. Hamlet is also such a protean play; that it can respond in very different ways to different places. In some, it will challenge; in some, inspire; in some, console. And its themes concerning parents and children, rebellion and depression seem pretty universal," concludes Mr Dromgoole.

Globe to Globe Hamlet will run from Sept 8 - 12 at Capitol Theatre, 7.45pm nightly with a 2.30pm matinee on Sept 12. Tickets from S$68-S$148 are available from Sistic.com