Graeae Theatre Company and Dhaka Theatre of Bangladesh are collaborating on a new Romeo and Juliet production commissioned by the British Council as part of Shakespeare Lives. A Different Romeo and Juliet premiered on 26 March
Graeae Theatre Company have been working with Dhaka Theatre, Bangladesh since 2013 to create a long-term training programme with young disabled adults in Bangladesh. This work led to a new production of Romeo and Juliet in 2016 to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, as part of Shakespeare Lives.
The project was initiated by the British Council and Dhaka Theatre. The aim was to tackle the marginalisation of disabled people, make theatre in Bangladesh more inclusive and to offer audiences a new experience: A Different Shakespeare.
Jenny Sealey, Artistic Director of Graeae, worked in collaboration with Nasiruddin Yousuff, founder of Dhaka Theatre and producer on the production, sharing expertise in training and development. Yousuff directed the acclaimed Bengali production of The Tempest which was seen at Shakespeare’s Globe in 2012. Sealy is well known for her work with Graeae and for her role as the Co-Artistic Director of the London 2012 Paralympics Opening Ceremony. Sealey directed the final production with a cast of 16 disabled performers and musicians. She spoke to British Council Voices about her experience and the challenges faced by disabled actors.
The company members for the production were drawn from different groups of disabled people from Bangladeshi society, with participants from the Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed (CRP-Bangladesh), Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) and the BRIDGE Foundation. The production management team was drawn from company members from Dhaka Theatre.
"I feel so very privileged to be part of this epic journey of discovering the talent of Deaf and Disabled people in Bangladesh." says Jenny Sealey. "The project is extremely important because it challenges people's perception of what Deaf and disabled people can do and places then in the universal love story Romeo and Juliet, and we will create a world where everyone has the right to love and be loved"
A Different Romeo and Juliet premiered at the Shilpakala Academy (National Academy of Fine and Performing Arts), Bangladesh’s principal national cultural centre, in March 2016, as part of the British Council’s Shakespeare Lives programme. Sealy was interviewed by The Stage about her work on the project which you can read here. More details about the production on the British Council Bangladesh website.
A documentary about the creation of A Different Romeo and Juliet will be shown at Alchemy 2016.
"Shakespeare’s work transcends the boundaries of time and culture. I am honoured to be a part of this grand project based on his work, which aims to reach to a large audience with a thought-provoking message." expressed Nasiruddin Yousuff. "The eternal story of Romeo and Juliet being performed by artists with disability yet highly talented young people on the biggest cultural stages in the country shows that ‘limitation’ is only a word, which can be surpassed with plan and practice. Thanks to British Council for thinking differently"
Shakespeare Lives is a global programme of events and activities celebrating Shakespeare’s work on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of his death in 2016.