“Romeo and Juliet in Baghdad’s” story line of a doomed cross-sectarian love affair manages to touch on nearly every element of the recent collective Iraqi experience.
I’m looking forward to seeing it in May. Here is Shaw’s argument about intercultural appropriation:
At home I am often asked about the foreign-language productions that will be performed during the festival. A common question is: “How do they cope with Shakespeare’s complex language?” I wonder if there is an expectation inherent in the question that they will produce beautiful, literary translations, which will stay as close as possible to the original text. Do we expect them to perform close approximations of British productions, but in foreign clothes? Because they won’t.
Serious artists encounter Shakespeare as a playwright, his work to be transplanted and made sense of through the prism of a different reality and set of culture references. They tell the Shakespeare story they are compelled to tell, appropriating characters, narrative, moral dilemmas, symbolism and themes in a way that, I would argue, embodies the true dramatic spirit of Shakespeare.
What she describes is still a one-to-one encounter (which is what an RSC commission might tend to produce) rather than what I’ve been calling a national or regional “Shakespeare tradition.” But I find this an attractive and convincing statement of how any “serious artist” (including an Anglophone one) would approach the task of adapting or even producing Shakespeare.