Happy New Year to all our readers. This is a big year for Shakespeare. It’s not a very well known fact, but Shakespeare played a role in winning the Olympic Games for London. Not only is he the most famous London resident of turn of sixteenth/seventeenth century London but also, according to the results of recent research by The Royal Shakespeare Company and the British Council, the world’s most studied author. About 64 million – half the world’s – school children study his plays and they are a compulsory component of the curriculum in scores of countries, including China, Azerbaijan and Vietnam. The Olympic Committee took Shakespeare’s pre-eminence as a world cultural figure into account when they were considering the bids.
The Committee knew that Shakespeare was going to feature in the Olympic celebrations, and they were right. The Globe Theatre in London will be staging 37 Shakespeare plays in 37 languages, presented by theatre companies from those countries. It is going to be a wonderful feast, and an illustration of how universal Shakespeare’s themes and characters are. An Iraqi company is doing a Romeo and Juliet in which the feuding Montagues and Capulets are transformed into the warring Sunnis and Shias. Tunisia’s Macbeth draws strong parallels with the issues of dictatorship and rebellion that currently mark the Arab Spring. The world’s newest country, South Sudan, is bringing a contribution.
I can’t help thinking about the logistics of it. Think about all the actors, stage crews and the countless other people involved in theatre production converging on the Globe. There will be thousands. Where will they all stay, for example? And think about all the set changing. And what about the sets themselves? Will they bring them from their own countries or will they be hiring them? Are there enough firms listed as ‘furniture hire, London’ in the Yellow Pages or on Google to satisfy the demand? It is going to be a nightmare.
I have enough confidence in the organisers, however, to think that it will all go smoothly and that everyone will have a good time. We do these things well in London!