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Multicultural Shakespeare, does it exist?

Multicultural Shakespeare, does it exist?

April 23 2014

Festival takes a look at ethnic engagement with the bard

  • Shakespeare’s relevancy to ethic communities in Britain
  • Part of V&A Shakespeare Festival and University of Warwick’s British Black and Asian Shakespeare project
  • Is theatre reflecting changes in society?

WELL-KNOWN cultural commentator Bonnie Greer, Holby City star Hugh Quarshie and top theatre director Iqbal Khan will be among a group of top theatre professionals, actors and academics discussing what Shakespeare means to Britain’s ethnic communities.

Also at “Multicultural Shakespeare” at the V&A in Kensington, London on Sunday (April 27) are Bill Alexander, Rakie Ayola, Danny Sapani, Tim Supple and David Tse Ka-Shing. Professor Tony Howard from Warwick will chair the debates.

The participants will examine what Shakespeare means in multicultural Britain today and how communities are engaging with the great bard as the country celebrates the 450th birth anniversary of its most famous writer.

In the first session, “Acting Shakespeare: Who’s playing Who?” contributors will look at the issues of ethnicity within the bard’s work and ask do they challenge or reinforce stereotypes.

Quarshie has posed the question – “If a black actor plays Othello does he not risk making racial stereotypes seem legitimate and true?”

Paul Robeson, a black actor, caused a sensation when he played Othello in London in 1930 and he always felt that Asian and black actors can and should play some of the biggest roles in classical English theatre, such as Hamlet, Macbeth and King Lear. But is that the reality of modern Britain?

The second section looks more at Shakespeare’s works and how they are received and performed abroad.

Many cutting edge global theatre companies have imaginatively interpreted Shakespeare and produced work that addresses modern questions around immigration, identity and integration. Meera Syal is just one of the many who was bluntly told Shakespeare was not for her or part of her cultural heritage.

Does Shakespeare help or hinder communities in their bid for self-expression?

In 2012, Khan directed an all Asian West End production of “Much Ado About Nothing”, starring Meera Syal and the late Paul Bhattacharjee to great acclaim.

Currently, veteran of stage and screen Madhav Sharma is touring India with his very personal one-man show inspired by Shakespeare, called “Bharat, Blighty and The Bard” You can read about it here.

The V&A event has been curated by Suman Bhuchar and Tony Howard and supported by the Arts & Humanities Research Council, University of Warwick and www.theatreVOICE.com

Ticket info: £5-12 click here

Picture: A Midsummer Night’s Dream – roundhouse image, Dash Arts’ production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream directed by Tim Supple

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture