Monday, 24 January 2011

Literary Olympics

Whilst Danny Boyle slaves away on his plans for the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, London’s Globe Theatre has announced an altogether simpler, yet stunning idea. An Olympic Festival, with each one of Shakespeare’s 38 plays being performed in a different language.

Now, I’m a tad ashamed to admit this, but I actually felt a little frisson of excitement when I found this in the news. What could be better than Hamlet and all the ‘Next King of Denmark’ malarkey actually in Dutch? And Iago, the ego-centric villain of Othello, rambling through his vicious plans in Greek?  And perhaps history’s most tragic love story being gasped and sighed through by Italian speaking actors? I’ll hedge my bets and say nothing is better than this.

I understand that this may not be, strictly-speaking, the reality of the situation. Clearly, some of the plays will have to be performed in a language that has nothing to do with their setting, plot or characters. But even this doesn’t put me off; personally I think The Tempest in Swahili would be simply lovely. However, whilst the romantics amongst us will probably get swept away in a tide of delight and duelling, I’m guessing that for some the thought of Shakespearian rhyming couplets in the playwrights own tongue sends shivers down the spine. Some people simply don’t get Shakespeare. And I do get why they don’t. Even people proficient in Shakespearian English can be foxed by some of his wordplay, puns and double-entendres. Some of it just doesn’t seem to make sense and it’s easy to get lost amongst the language and the multitude of lovers galloping across the stage. But this is a different argument altogether and one that deserves a dissertation worth of effort to discuss.

But the Globe’s idea is much easier to digest. What better way is there to symbolise the world coming together in one country, than bringing all the languages of the world together through the words of that country’s most eloquent poet and playwright.   

Have a looksee on The Globe's website for more: