Shakespeare in the Dark — and All Over the World

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You’d expect the artistic director of London’s Globe Theatre to be fond of the dramatic grand gesture and you’d be right.

You can see for yourself when Shakespeare’s Globe on Screen series continues with The Taming of the Shrew at 11 a.m. Saturday at Landmark Theatres across Canada (and again on Dec. 27 at noon at Toronto’s Bloor Hot Docs Cinema which is also showing the entire series).

But Dominic Dromgoole, 51, doesn’t just bring his critically acclaimed productions of Shakespeare to movie audiences in Canada and many other countries.

He mounted every single Shakespeare play during the London Olympics.

And he’s committed to having the Globe’s touring production of Hamlet performed in every single country and territory in the world, some 205 venues, over 24 months.

Dominic Dromgoole. Photo by Helena Miscioscia

The tour by eight actors began April 23, the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. It finishes on April 23, 2016, the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death — and the very day Dromgoole plans to resign from the Globe Theatre. (“Irresistible symbolism,” admits Dromgoole.)

Clearly, the man cannot resist the grand gesture.

“We love big bold ideas,” he acknowledges, “big, bold and stupid, going to every country in the world.”

Putting Shakespeare in movie theatres was a no-brainer for Dromgoole and not even much of a challenge compared to sending Hamlet hither and yon and proving definitively that all the world’s a stage.

“We love getting our work out and about in the world whether it’s touring or these films, or video on demand.”

How close is the film experience to the live performance?

‘This whole explosion in filming and transmitting performance, various operas and ballet, all of this has been driven by technology,” he explains. “This new HD technology is so brilliant at capturing the nature of the experience, the sound, and a lot of the vitality, including the audience reactions which are very much part of the joy of the presentation.”

Dromgoole says the Globe on Screen series offers “pretty faithful and honest renditions” of the plays.

It also provides viewers with “the glories of the the Globe.” The theatre is a true reconstruction of Shakespeare’s open-air theatre built in1599.

All performances, including those on film, take place in natural light.

But with The Taming of the Shrew especially, isn’t there some danger in reconstructing the past in the present?

Even the title suggests domestic abuse and wife-beating.

“It is what it is,” responds Dromgoole. “What I love about this production is that it’s beautifully acted and rather than presenting an argument or making a case for one side or another, it leaves it up to the audience to find the behavior repulsive or to view it as a clash of wills between two strong beings.

“Obviously it’s repulsive the way Katherine is treated. But it takes place in an age when that sort of thing was more acceptable.”

He suggests enjoying it as “a play about people finding a way to live with each other.”

If Shakespeare is universal and timeless, Dromgoole’s international undertaking is proof positive.

“We’re on country 65,” he says. “The performance in Colombia was just thrilling, the generosity and rapture of the response.”

The appreciation of Shakespeare, whether in Shanghai, Moscow or South America, where the Globe’s Hamlet has already played, is evidence, he says, of “how robust and human Shakespeare is to survive so many different perspectives.”

The Shakespeare’s Globe on Screen series continues in 2105:
The Tempest, from January 10
Macbeth, from March 28
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, from April 11