The Tempest performed in Aida refugee camp, Bethlehem…

…in English, by a British company called Jericho House Theatre.

The Independent’s coverage reproduces the familiar trope of third-world and especially non-Anglophone audiences as Shakespearean “groundlings.”
True there were no mobile phones, a few of which trilled during the performance, in Shakespeare’s time. But close your eyes and you could just about imagine that the children sucking ice lollies running up and down the steps of the Aida refugee camp’s open-air auditorium, were behaving much as the Globe’s younger groundlings would have done four centuries ago.
Is this Prospero in the photo above, dressed as an English colonial gentleman? The Independent (which covers the performance as an event, not a show) does not say.  But it seems the director, unsurprisingly, has some political ideas about the play and its relevance to the situation in Aida:
For Jonathan Holmes, The Tempest has a particular relevance to the Middle East. He is careful not to suggest any exact parallels. But without repeating a fashionable “post-colonial” reading of Caliban as the rebellious, and Ariel as the more collaborative victim of exploiters from outside, he believes the play, set somewhere between Western Europe and the Levant, “becomes a contest for territory between people of different cultures, and between people of the same culture. Shakespeare uses this to explore different systems and ideas of political resistance.”

Aida camp is literally right under Israel’s separation wall. I haven’t visited, but my good friends Amahl and Nidal made a very cool documentary about it.  You can hear them on NPR, too — click here and scroll down to July 7.

Update on Arabic Tempest

Update – It’s Sulayman Al-Bassam directing the Arabic-language Tempest at the Globe Theatre next year.
A certain lack of imagination on their part, I daresay — but at least they can be confident it will be well done.

Latest update (May 8, 2011): I talked to Sulayman and he is no longer involved in this project.  Decided there was not so much that he could interestingly do with The Tempest right now.  Stay tuned for more on the whole Olympiad-related extravaganza, and let me know if you have more details.

The Globe goes global

After the RSC’s Complete Works season, how could this not be next?  Shakespeare’s 38 plays to be performed in 38 different languages. The Guardian writes:

Anyone who struggles with Shakespeare in English will next year be able to see if it is any easier in Lithuanian. Or Portuguese, Italian or Spanish, perhaps. And if all that fails – Troilus and Cressida in Maori?

In fact, there will be 38 different ways to experience it, as Shakespeare’s Globe presents all of the Bard’s plays, each in a different language, as part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

Apparently Arabic has been selected for The Tempest (stay tuned for director and cast info) — but I bet that won’t be nearly as interesting as the Urdu Taming of the Shrew!