By Jill Lawless
LONDON — Four centuries after his death, William Shakespeare is probably Britain’s best-known export, his words and characters famous around the world.
It’s fitting they were first staged at a playhouse called the Globe.
Now the modern-day Shakespeare’s Globe theater in London is setting out to test the Bard’s maxim that “all the world’s a stage” by taking “Hamlet” to every country on Earth, more than 200 in all.
The company describes the plan as “insanely ambitious.” Some suspect it’s impossible, and Amnesty International has weighed in to point out the “dark irony” of taking a play about power and regicide to authoritarian North Korea.
“Hamlet” opens Wednesday — on Shakespeare’s 450th birthday — with the first of three performances at the Globe, a reconstructed Elizabethan playhouse beside the River Thames.
Then the cast of 12 and its four-person crew will board a schooner for Amsterdam, beginning a journey that will take them to seven continents by plane, boat, train, bus and jeep.
Globe artistic director Dominic Dromgoole reeled off the first tour stops with an excited grin: “Amsterdam, Wittenberg, Arctic Circle — Tromso — drop down through Scandinavia, go to Moscow, go to Kiev the night before the election.”
The tour is scheduled to last two years, finishing back at the Globe on April 23, 2016 — the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.
The itinerary is still a work in progress, but Ladi Emeruwa, one of two actors playing the lead role, said his schedule is blocked out through January, with performances across Europe followed by tours of North, Central and South America and the Caribbean.
“It feels like I’ve won the lottery,” said Nigeria-born Emeruwa, who trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. “Both are things I’ve always wanted to do — perform for this company and travel.”
The tour’s initial goal of visiting 205 nations and territories may vary, and exactly what constitutes a country is in some cases contested. The United Nations has 193 member states, while there were 204 teams in the London Olympics.
Dromgoole remains undaunted, though unspecific, when asked about war-devastated Syria or insular North Korea — both now listed on the tour’s website as “details to be confirmed.”
“Every country means every country,” he said. “It’s not easy to get into every country, for a variety of reasons. But we’re quite persistent.”