Academic journal article Multicultural Shakespeare

Book Reviews

Academic journal article Multicultural Shakespeare

Book Reviews

Article excerpt

Multicultural Shakespeare: Translation, Appropriation and Performance vol. 14 (29), 2016; DOI: 10.1515/mstap-2016-0021

Susan Bennett and Christie Carson, eds., Shakespeare Beyond English: A Global Experiment (Cambridge UP, 2013)

Reviewed by Hisao Oshima

Shakespeare Beyond English is a unique collection of reviews about international Shakespearean productions in The Globe to Globe Festival held as a part of the Cultural Olympiad of the 2012 London Olympics. As its editors quote from the official London 2012 website and other sources in the introduction, the London Olympics was launched with the motto to inspire a generation an objective that would be met not just by the main event but also through the staging of a Cultural Olympiad, the largest cultural celebration in the history of the modern Olympic and Paralympic Movements (p. 1). From its early stages, Shakespeare, Britains greatest cultural contribution to the world, was firmly linked with this giant undertaking. The Shakespeare Staging the World exhibition was held at the British Museum, and the nationwide World Shakespeare was organized as a celebration of Shakespeare as the worlds playwright. The Globe to Globe Festival, staged on the Shakespeare Globe from 21 April to 9 June in 2012, is comprised of performances of all thirty-seven plays and Venus and Adonis delivered in more than forty different languages.

The book is divided into six sections corresponding to the festivals six weeks (six or seven plays staged a week), with two introductions, Introduction: Shakespeare Beyond English by the editors and The Globe to Globe Festival: Introduction by Tom Bird, the director of the festival, and two Afterwords, Abigail Rokisons From thence to England: Henry V at Shakespeares Globe and Bridget Escolmes Decentring Shakespeare: A hope for future connections. Just looking at its Contents, you might be impressed with the amazing variety of foreign Shakespeares: Measure for Measure in Russian (Vakhtangov Theatre from Moscow), The Merry Wives of Windsor in Swahili (Bitter Pill and The Theatre Company from Nairobi, Kenya), Pericles in Greek (National Theatre of Athens), Richard III in Mandarin (National Theatre of China from Beijing),

Kyushu University.

Book Reviews


Book Reviews

Coriolanus in Japanese (Chiten from Kyoto), Othello in Hip Hop (Q Brothers/ Chicago Shakespeare Theatre), Loves Labours Lost in British Sign Language (Deafinitely Theatre, from London), and so on.

The global experiment, just as the myth of the Tower of Babel suggests, seemed to be quite challenging to both the actors and the audience, including the reviewers, because of the language barrier.1 The organizers of the festival depended on the multilingual composition of the population in London, wishing to encourage a new audience to come to the Globe. For the English-speaking audience, they offered short surtitles of scene-by-scene synopses in English (p. 16). Early in the festival, foreign actors sometimes used English words and phrases to establish a communicative relationship with the audience, but the festival organizers asked them not to use this common practice of communication in an international festival in order to preserve the cultural authenticity and linguistic purity of each performance. This interference with the actors communicative methods on stage might sound problematic, but it brought forth a unique linguistic situation in the theatre with one part of the audience understanding the language of the production and the other not understanding it, resulting in unique audience responses. Facing this challenging linguistic situation, the reviewers adopt quite different critical approaches in their reviews, which suggests the fact that the judging system to evaluate international theatrical performances is hardly developed in the Cultural Olympiad, unlike those in the Olympic Games.

In spite of this language barrier, as several reviewers report, the English-speaking audience seemed to enjoy foreign productions, much helped by their visually enjoyable festival performances featuring traditional costumes and performing arts. …

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