Shakespeare Lives in 2016
British Council's global programme marking 400 years since the playwright's death will include innovative new works by artists in Northern Ireland
Performance artist Amanda Coogan and Belfast theatre company Terra Nova Productions will be part of British Council’s Shakespeare Lives campaign — a major global programme for 2016, celebrating Shakespeare’s works and his influence on culture, education and society on the 400th anniversary of his death.
The global project, which launched at the Houses of Parliament in London this week, will see over 140 countries around the world get involved throughout the year with exhibitions, unique online collaborations, public readings, conversations and debates and educational resources for classrooms.
As part of the celebration, Belfast-based Coogan will present her new multi-media work 'You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio', a combination of sign language, performance, digital sound and live Instagram streaming.
Working in collaboration with deaf communities in Northern Ireland and South Africa, different Shakespearean plays will be woven together into a performance that empowers both participants and audiences to take a fresh new look at Shakespeare’s works.
Speaking about the project, Coogan said: 'Through the British Council I was able to spend two weeks in South Africa in June, and while there, was really inspired by the story of the Robben Bible. The complete works of Shakespeare were smuggled on to Robben Island Prison — home to liberation leaders and activists including Nelson Mandela, and the book became one of the most treasured documents on the island.
'For this piece I have chosen to base it on a line from Macbeth — 'All the perfumes of Arabia couldn't make my little hand smell better' — and will use four different performers, including a deaf actor, to weave three different scenes together in 40 minutes.'
Meanwhile, Terra Nova Productions will produce The Belfast Tempest, one of the largest Shakespeare productions Belfast has ever seen. Inspired by the history of the great port city of Belfast, the play will feature local and international actors, with special emphasis on Asia and the 56 nations of Africa and the Caribbean.
Supported by British Council, Belfast City Council and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the project will bring together more than 230 community cast members to join professionals from around the world for a truly international and cross community event staged at Belfast's docks.
Taking place from April 20 - 23 2016, the production aims to promote community engagement not only on stage, but behind the scenes, with 680 participation opportunities, including through set building, costume making and masterclasses.
Artistic Director of Terra Nova Andrea Montgomery, who will be attending the launch in London today, said: 'Terra Nova has always been an intercultural theatre company and since its inception in 2007, has aimed to bring local and global collaborations together.
'This version of The Tempest however will be a real Belfast version and take us through three stages of Belfast’s history — from its formation in the 1600s, to its industrial heyday in the late 19th century, finishing up in modern-day Belfast.'
British Council Northern Ireland Director David Alderdice said: 'Four hundred years after his death, Shakespeare remains one of our greatest literary exports.
'His works have not only inspired the broadest range of artistic endeavour and motivated political change, but also given people from all walks of life a platform for self-expression through the genius of his language.'