Shakespeare turns 450 with two of his plays in Istanbul

The English Propeller Theatre Company to stage two of Shakespeare's plays in Istanbul for the first time as part of celebrating his 450th birthday in 2014.

The English Propeller Theatre Company to stage two of Shakespeare's plays in Istanbul for the first time as part of celebrating his 450th birthday in 2014.

By Esra Kaymak

ISTANBUL - As part of acclaimed English writer William Shakespeare's 450th birthday in 2014, the English Propeller Theatre Company (the all-male production company) will stage Shakespeare's plays in Istanbul for the first time.

Organized and hosted by the British Council in Turkey and Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV), the Propeller Theatre Company will stage five performances, in English of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' and 'The Comedy of Errors' throughout the festival.

The company is famous for bringing Shakespeare’s plays to life in engaging and innovative ways, drawing on influences from classic and modern film and music to create powerful and entertaining ensemble productions.

"Choosing these two plays is a very interesting juxtaposition of two of his best works, also his most accessible works for the general audience," British Council Director of Turkey, Margaret Jack told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview.

These two plays will launch a three-year programme on Shakespeare, celebrating his death 400 years ago and culminating in 2016.

Partners from United Kingdom, Turkey, and the British Council will curate 'Shakespeare400', a programme of public events which will engage audiences in Istanbul, Ankara and other cities in Anatolia over the next three years.

With the launch of the programme to celebrate and mark Shakespeare's birthday, the 19th Istanbul Theatre Festival will not only stage a variety of performances of his plays but also will put on workshops and documentary screenings as well as a 'question and answer' event, apart from the foreign and local productions.

"Taking the events to cities across Turkey is hugely important for us. Giving opportunities to young people in cities that do not have access to the arts as in Istanbul, and elsewhere is going to be one of our ambitions for the next two years," Jack said.

Jack also stated that the universal themes Shakespeare wrote about are as relevant today as they were 400 years ago, adding that the celebrations will start on the 23rd April, the date on which he was born and died, and will run until 2016.

"The Works of Shakespeare are so well-known internationally, that many people are able to understand them even without knowing the language that's being spoken. They can follow the play because they are familiar with it," she underlined.

One of the plays to be performed is 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', which tells of the clash between love and illusion through the story of two people who fall in love on the eve of their royal wedding. The Propeller Theatre Company will use masks, animation and classic and modern projection, as well as globally appealing music for this play, which will be staged at Harbiye Muhsin Ertugrul Stage in Sisli, Istanbul on May 20, 22 and 24.

'The Comedy of Errors', which is the second play to meet the Turkish audience is a play full of mind games and fun. It tells the story of the complicated relationships between two twins and their family. The play will run on May 21 and 23 on the same stage with 'A Midsummer Night's Dream.'

- Local adaptations of Shakespeare

Apart from the British Propeller Theatre company, local adaptations of Shakespeare's plays will also be performed during the festival.

Altidan Sonra Tiyatro-Pangar will be one of the festival's guests with the play 'King Lear', co-produced by the Istanbul Theatre Festival and directed as well as adapted by Yigit Sertdemir. The tragedy will be told through the character closest to Lear in the play, the Fool. The play is going to be performed at Uskudar Studio Stage on May 15 and 16.

The Oyunbaz company will also perform the play, 'Humanity's absurdist tragedy' under the direction of Abdullah Cabaluz on the same stage on May 25 and 26.

Bakirkoy Municipal Theatre will perform 'Romeo & Juliet', Shakespeare's tale of two young lovers and their separation due to their feuding families under the direction of Mehmet Birkiye on June 2 and 3 at the Cevahir Stage.

An adaptation of Shakespeare's Hamlet, the 'Makeshift Hamlet' by Cigdem Selisik Onat and Hayati Citaklar, tells the story of a few individuals with ambiguous social identities who find a scattered version of the play Hamlet, will be staged at Uskudar Studio Stage on May 23 and 24.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was an English poet and playwright, known as England's national poet and named the 'Bard of Avon' was widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and pre-eminent dramatist of the world.

Shakespeare's works which consist of approximately 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several other poems has been translated into several languages. His plays are some of the most read and well-known plays in the world.

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