Lonely Planet Writer

Shakespeare's Hamlet world tour plays Calais camp

Shakespeare’s Globe has staged a performance of Hamlet in front of dozens of refugees and migrants at “the Jungle” camp in Calais.

The London-based theatre company took its world touring production of the Bard’s timeless tragedy for a one-off performance at the sprawling site in northern France.

A synopsis translated into languages including Arabic and Farsi was handed out for the crowds before the play, along with bags of popcorn.

One refugee called Abdul, 20, from Afghanistan – who has been camped at “the Jungle” for seven months, said: “It’s good. It’s making people happy here.”

Shakespeare's Globe is bring Hamlet to countries all around the world.
Shakespeare’s Globe is bring Hamlet to countries all around the world. Image by Shakespeare’s Globe

The show was part of the Globe to Globe tour, which has also seen performances staged at refugee camps in Jordan, Djibouti and the Cameroon.

It was held in conjunction with the Good Chance theatre and performance project, which is based at the Jungle camp and offers art, theatre and music events.

Dominic Dromgoole, Shakespeare Globe’s artistic director, said the performance was an example of “the ground-breaking tour’s ability to reach displaced people across the world”.

He said: “The sheer scale of the refugee crisis demands a response, however small.

“It’s a great privilege to play for displaced people in Calais. As a theatre company, the only gesture we can offer is this – a show that we hope speaks to the human spirit at its greatest and its darkest moments.”

Tom Bird, the executive producer of Shakespeare’s Globe, said: “We are entertainers and there is a lot of boredom as well as a lot of need here.

“If we can give two hours of entertainment and diversion then it’s worth doing.”

Port of Calais, France.
Port of Calais, France. Image by Mortimer62 / CC BY-SA 2.0

Some 4,000 migrants and refugees who have fled war, poverty and persecution from countries including Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea are camped at “the Jungle”.

Many are seeking a new life in Britain, while along the coast near Dunkirk some 2,500 migrant and refugees are living in squalor in flimsy tents and ankle-deep mud at the Grande-Synthe camp.

The two-year Globe to Globe tour of Hamlet started on April 23 2014 – the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth.

Sixteen men and women from the production are travelling across the seven continents performing in a range of atmospheric venues.

So far, Hamlet has been performed in more than 150 countries to more than 100,000 people and travelled more than 150,000 miles.

It was performed in Bhutan, Nepal, South Korea and Japan among other countries last year, and the performances are largely free of charge for local audiences.

In October 2014, Unesco patronage was granted to Globe to Globe Hamlet in recognition of the tour’s engagement with communities and its promotion of cultural education.

(Press Association)