Shakespeare’s Hamlet goes global

London-based Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre was in Dubai in October with the popular play Hamlet. Vision speaks to the play’s artistic director Dominic Dromgoole, who has taken it to more than 143 countries so far, including across the Americas, Europe and Africa, reaching approximately 100,000 fans of the classic

Traveling more than 100,000 miles to some 140 countries and counting, artistic director Dominic Dromgoole is determined to reach every country in the world with Shakespeare’s popular classic Hamlet. The journey, part of London-based Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre’s two-year tour, is set to conclude on 23 April 2016. Dromgoole and his team recently made a stop in Dubai as part of the Globe to Globe Hamlet tour, performing the play at the arts and music centre DUCTAC.

The Globe Theatre started their tour of Hamlet on the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, with plans to visit 196 countries. Syria is the only place off limits, but the group performed for Syrian refugees at the Zaatari camp in Jordan as an alternative. Many of its shows worldwide are free, aiming to bring the play to as many people and places as possible. The world tour was granted UNESCO patronage for its engagement with local communities and its promotion of cultural education.

'It is a challenge to travel so quickly from place to place, and to perform so many shows in a week with jet lag and little sleep, but we are used to it now, and the pluses of performing to an international, different audience every night outweigh the minuses'

Dominic Dromgoole, Hamlet's Artistic director

In Dubai, “the audience were very attentive but then gave us a very warm applause at the end of the performance. It was an incredibly vibrant audience and the theatre was fabulous,” says Dromgoole.

Since Dubai, the globe trotting theatre travelled to places including Palestine, Nepal, India, Oman, Jordan, Tajikistan and Turkey. The company makes sure to mix actors’ roles: there are two Hamlets, three Ophelias, and three Gertrudes. This means no show is ever the same, says Dromgoole who likes to “keep them on their toes” and ensure the show remains fresh wherever it goes.

shakespeare hamlet sudan world tour theatre
In Sudan, Hamlet was performed outdoors to an audience of 3000 at the National Theatre in KhartoumImage: The Globe Theatre

However, performing around the world, transporting theatre sets and being on the road for a long time is challenging.

“It is a challenge to travel so quickly from place to place, and to perform so many shows in a week with jet lag and little sleep, but we are used to it now, and the pluses of performing to an international, different audience every night outweigh the minuses,” he explains.

Next stops include Turkmenistan, Lebanon, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Pakistan. The Globe Theatre relies on donations to keep the tour going and reach a greater audience around the world, with donors having the option to sponsor a mile for as little as £5.