Something is artistic in the Republic of Maldives, as the Globe Theatre comes to town for what could very well be a once-in-a-lifetime production
Kingmaking, violent succession, moral relativism and brutality were all on display on the streets of Male’ today, as an ongoing international tour of Hamlet performed by Shakespeare's Globe theatre company was brought to the Maldives capital.
Taking one of Shakespeare’s most performed and influential works, the tour, which as of today has travelled 139,384km, has touched down at the Olympus Cinema in Male’ - used largely to perform Maldivian movies. The one-off theatre production could very well be the country’s first ever professionally produced performance of Shakespeare.
Having commenced the tour in April 2014 as a means to celebrate 450 years since the playwright’s birth, the 16 person production of Hamlet is expected to have played in every country on the earth over the course of two years and has already received a number of awards.
“Encompassing political intrigue and sexual obsession, philosophical reflection and violent action, Hamlet is Shakespeare’s ‘poem unlimited’, a colossus in the story of the English language and the fullest expression of his genius,” is how Shakespeare’s Globe describes the play.
Art, it seems, rarely imitates life.
Overseen by the Globe’s Artistic Director, Dominic Dromgoole, the tour will see an ensemble of 12 actors swapping between roles on a show-by-show basis, backed by four stage managers travelling with the company.
Having completed their performance in Male’ today, the cast will now be making their way to Epsom College in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the next scheduled performance of the play on May 21.
The performance is a significant cultural event for the Maldives, which despite a large number of high-profile celebrities visiting its exclusive tourists islands, has struggled to bring international performers for local people.
Whether the event then, along with a performance in Male’ in January this year by R&B singer Akon represents a sea-change in artists choosing to entertain in the country remains to be seen.
Despite the high penetration of smartphones and internet use among young people, as a society espousing strictly Islamic values - it is illegal to practice any other faith in the country - and having held only its first ever multi-party presidential election in 2008, the role of art, culture and even heritage in Maldives society is often seen as precarious.