Over the course of six weeks, all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays were performed by 37 international companies in 37 different languages, at Shakespeare's Globe in London. We supported the development process of three productions in the Globe to Globe season: Cymbeline by the South Sudan Theatre Company, The Taming of the Shrew by Theatre Wallay from Pakistan and The Comedy of Errors by the Roy-e-Sabs theatre company from Afghanistan.
South Sudan Theatre Company – Cymbeline
In September 2011, Tony Calderbank, Director of the British Council office in South Sudan, was approached by the South Sudan Theatre Company (SSTC). The company was newly-formed by three hugely well-respected dramatists and poets who had previously worked in different areas of the former Sudan – in Khartoum to the North, in Juba in the South (which is now the capital of South Sudan) and elsewhere. The company agreed to be part of the Globe to Globe Festival presented by Shakespeare’s Globe and chose to present Cymbeline.
Even for those who are well-acquainted with Shakespeare, Cymbeline is not the most accessible of plays and was perhaps an obscure choice. However, it was no coincidence that artists from the world’s newest nation selected this, a play which is fundamentally a narrative of a fledgling nation fighting a war of independence with its larger and more powerful neighbour. Movingly, Cymbeline is also a play which ends with a philosophical examination of forgiveness and reconciliation after war.
As a newly-formed company, SSTC were not only preparing their first ever production, they also translated Shakespeare into Juba Arabic for the very first time, as well as preparing to be South Sudan’s first ever cultural export.
Within weeks of the company’s initial request, the our Theatre & Dance team sent the first of two British theatre directors, Gregory Thompson and Raz Shaw, out to South Sudan to support the vision of the South Sudan Theatre Company. In March 2012, we brought the two co-directors of the project, Joseph Abuk Dori and Derik Uya Alfred Ngbangu, to the UK where they once again met and worked with Raz and Gregory.
South Sudan Theatre Company performed at London's Globe theatre from 2-3 May 2012 and received glowing praise. Cymbeline went on to tour in South Sudan and to perform in Bangalore as part of India’s Shakespeare season in November 2012.
For a nation forged geographically by war, now honing its identity through culture, raising the profile of the company at the festival was a hugely important part of our work. The joy and admiration with which the production was received carried forward into our reception, which was attended by political correspondents, arts press, artists and arts organisations, funding organisations and NGOs, as well as members of the South Sudanese Diaspora.
Theatre Wallay: The Taming of the Shrew
First performed in Pakistan before playing at Shakespeare’s Globe 25-26 May, The Taming of the Shrew starred the Lahore screen and stage star Nadia Jamil as Katherine. Rich in colour and energy, Theatre Walley’s new production explored the difficulties encountered by modern Pakistani women. Featuring live singers and musicians, a bhangra jig rounded off this uplifting version. Performed in Urdu with an English synopsis, the piece was performed at various other UK locations following on from its time at the Globe.
Roy-e-Sabs Company: The Comedy of Errors
Noted for controversial productions with men and women acting together, Roy-e-Sabs from Afghanistan brought their new version of The Comedy of Errors, performed in Dari Persian, to Shakespeare's Globe from 30-31 May. Rehearsed in Kabul in exceptional circumstances, the cast left Kabul for the first time to perform in Corinne Jaber's new production of The Comedy of Errors in India before playing London, then UK wide and to German audiences thereafter.
Roy-e-Sabs (‘Path of Hope’) were established in Kabul in 2005 by the award-winning actress and pioneering director Corinne Jaber and today the company are spearheading the revival of performing arts in Afghanistan. With a strong emphasis on creating a better environment for young female and male artists, the work of Roy-e-Sabs is reviving an established tradition of storytelling in Afghanistan as well as a more recent love of theatre.
Read about an article about Roy-e-Sabs on the Reuters website as they prepared to perform The Comedy of Errors.