Friday, October 28 2016


British Council launches global celebration of Shakespeare

Update: April, 29/2015 - 12:34
Actors from the Viet Nam National Drama Theatre rehearse "Hamlet" by William Shakespeare. The play is expected to be staged at the end of May. A global celebration of Shakespeare has been launched by the British Council. — Photo

HA NOI (VNS) — To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the death of the great English poet, playwright, and actor William Shakespeare, the British Council has launched a global programme to honour his life.

Entitled Shakespeare Lives, the programme is the largest-ever global celebration of Shakespeare. Shakespeare Lives is an invitation to the world to join in the celebration by participating in a unique online collaboration and experience the work of Shakespeare directly on stage, through film, exhibitions and in schools. The programme hopes to reach over half a billion people throughout the world.

Ciaran Devane, chief executive of the British Council said, "Power struggles, brutal politics, murder, love, passion, bitter feuds, human weakness and plain farce are universal themes, as relevant now as they were when Shakespeare was writing. Shakespeare Lives will engage audiences overseas and in the UK with both the work of the Bard and with the best of contemporary Britain, and will open up opportunities for UK institutions, businesses and organisations to work around the world, and for organisations around the world in the UK."

Launched this autumn, Shakespeare Lives will run throughout 2016, exploring Shakespeare as a living writer who still speaks for all people and nations.

Activities across English, education and the arts will explore the story of how a playwright from England came to be shared all over the world.

A major highlight will be All The World's A Stage, a mass participation project that will invite people from throughout the world to upload and share clips of themselves performing lines from Shakespeare plays.

The Shakespeare Lives programme will include screenings of leading Shakespeare productions, including the Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre's film of Hamlet starring Maxine Peake, as well as a new film adaptation of a Shakespeare play developed by Indian and UK Asian filmmakers.

Other highlight of the global programme will be a massive online course aimed at intermediate level English language learners, which will explore the key themes and characters in Shakespeare's plays and his continuing resonance around the world. Other teaching resources include Shakespeare-themed lesson plans for all levels, a series of webinars for English language teachers and animated Shakespeare stories for children.

In addition, the British Council is offering ten research and development grants for artists and companies to develop new collaborative project ideas with counterparts overseas.

The celebration will also feature a global tour of Royal Society of Literature poets who have written responses to the Sonnets. There will also be opportunities for emerging poets and graphic novelists from around the world.

Another activity will be Sonnets on the Underground – a collaboration with Bloomsbury Publishing that will see Poems on the Underground's popular London programme replicated in cities, including Moscow and Dubai.

The agenda will also include a global short film competition, called Bitesize Bard. The contest will invite budding filmmakers from around the world to reinterpret one of eight iconic Shakespeare scenes in a single take. The 12 best films will be selected by a renowned panel from the world of theatre and film, with prizes awarded.

Another highlight will be a new education pack developed with the Royal Shakespeare Company, exploring some of the broad themes that run across his writing – themes that still resonate with people all over the world today. The pack will be distributed to all 25,000 schools in the UK and promoted around the world through the British Council's school network.

In addition, a series of workshops and public panel discussions on Shakespeare in translation, involving world renowned academics, experts and performers, in partnership with the National Centre for Writing and Shakespeare's Globe, will be held.

To inspire the global celebrations of Shakespeare Day, a downloadable tool kit will be developed in partnership with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. It will include a Shakespeare speech available in many world languages and fun resources, such as a Shakespeare quiz, Elizabethan recipes and playlists.

Young people will be invited to join World Voice -- the British Council's international singing programme, to compose a special Shakespeare-inspired song that will be featured in the World Voice songbook. The song will be used in World Voice workshops and teacher training sessions around the world, and will be sung by children at a variety of events during 2016.

Finally, the global celebration will consist of a touring programme of the best British Shakespeare films, which will be screened internationally in partnership with the British Film Institute. The film programme will include everything from early silent films to new productions. — VNS

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