To be or not to be… Shakespeare’s Globe comes to Colombo

tumblr_nl5xnv7K4c1tuhy9io2_1280By Laura Davies

On 14 May, Shakespeare’s Globe came to Colombo. Sri Lanka was their 96th stopover in their Globe to Globe challenge to perform Hamlet in every single country in the world. Here in Sri Lanka, they performed twice, a free matinee for 20 schools from across Colombo, and an evening production. Junior prefects from the British School in Colombo helped out backstage and front of house, watching the play, and also meeting the actors and crew. Two of them, Ravini Gunasekera and Thevin Degamboda, blog below about their experience.

“Hamlet filled the auditorium with roars of laughter and excitement.

Students rushed in for the matinee and flooded the seats of the auditorium. Faces scintillated with elation, with the sheer thrill of being able to witness such a reputed theatre company, and also because of the anticipation that Hamlet or Ophelia might speak to them as cast members traversed up and down the stairs talking to students and playing music. The atmosphere of the auditorium was outstandingly jovial and exhilarating.

And so the show started. A three hour play seemed to fly past in a matter of minutes. Laughter broke out at the irony of “The Murder of Gonzago”. Gasps as Hamlet killed Polonius. Intimidating silence as Ophelia fell into madness. That morning, Hamlet took its viewers through an emotional journey of laughter, shock, anticipation, and love.

The cast then had two tight hours till their next show. As time closed in to the starting bell, couples and families stormed in, grumbling and bewailing about the terrible Colombo traffic. Once everyone had settled, the show once again started in extravagant fashion.

Afterwards, we managed to steal some time with the cast, such as the talented Jennifer Leong who played Ophelia. The one question that bobbed through my mind was: how do you practice Ophelia’s descent into madness? Jennifer revealed how she would listen to music that resurrected personal memories and embellish her hair with flowers to make the transition – but also that she had to be careful not to let Ophelia’s depression into her personal life.

And so ended a spectacular night full of comedy and tragedy. The Globe came, amazed Sri Lanka, and left, all in three days. So on behalf of Sri Lanka, thank you to Shakespeare’s Globe and best of luck as they continue to amaze, literally, the entire world with their talent and passion.” Thevin

tumblr_nl5xnv7K4c1tuhy9io7_1280“Hamlet, like all Shakespeare’s plays was made for the stage; we had a unique opportunity to experience this, without travel costs or a time machine.

The show began with the cast roaming the auditorium, establishing a fundamental rapport with the audience. This enabled us to sympathise with Ophelia and loathe Claudius. The simplicity of the play enhanced the authenticity: the lack of flamboyant lighting, sound, costumes and set helped us understand each character, without illusions or artificial effects.

We had the opportunity to speak to members of the cast. I asked ‘What makes this version of Hamlet so successful?’ Beruce Khan thought it was the mix of tragedy and comic relief. Amanda Wilkin said “everybody can relate to the themes, whether it is a parent telling you what to do, like with Polonius and Ophelia, the need for revenge, or simply falling in and out of love.

Most teenagers would probably groan at the words “Shakespearean tragedy”; the rest would discover the real tragedy is staying awake in class… But this production enthralled and entertained teenagers and adults alike.” Ravini

(Laura Davies is the Deputy British High Commissioner to Colombo and this article appeared on her blog)