Syria unsafe so Globe brings Bard to Calais refugee camp, stages ‘Hamlet’

AP

The Globe theater company took “Hamlet” to Calais on Wednesday, bringing one of William Shakespeare’s best-known tragedies to an audience that almost certainly would rather see it in the famed playwright’s native country.

Wednesday’s performance may be among the boldest shows by the Globe in its worldwide tour that began nearly two years ago on the 450th anniversary of the Bard’s birth and ends back home in Britain this April, the 400th anniversary of his death.

For camp residents, the British production may seem a good fit: they come to Calais in hopes of sneaking to Albion.

The play is hosted by the Good Chance theater in the heart of the camp, one of numerous structures set up by volunteers to fill the void for its displaced residents.

Joe Murphy, one of Good Chance’s artistic directors, said Hamlet’s message resonates in the grimness of Calais.

“‘Hamlet’ is about a man who is in doubt …. Contemplating life, he is contemplating death.” Being torn about a decision “is the situation, the reality for many young men in the camp,” he said.

Most refugees who crowded around the outdoor theater on a cold gray day appeared unfamiliar with either Shakespeare or the powerful story of the Danish prince. Synopses were handed out in English and a handful of other languages, including Farsi and Pashtun. At least a few among the audience of several hundred appeared happy with the spectacle.

“Shakespeare, he’s a great author,” said Filmon Kidane, a 27-year-old Eritrean. “Life in here is very bad. We need refreshment.”

The Globe embarked on outdoor performances at refugee camps after realizing that the goal of performing in every country of the world was impossible in some places — like Syria — that are simply too dangerous to enter. Instead, it brought the performance to Syrians who had fled to Jordan.

“There’s a lot of boredom here as well as a lot of need, and so we can give two hours of entertainment,” Thomas Bird, the Globe’s executive producer, told The Associated Press.