Hamlet in the Jungle

Shakespeare’s Globe brought Hamlet to the Calais Jungle refugee camp this week, the newest installment of their Globe to Globe tour and the third refugee camp it has been performed in.


Naeem Hayat as the titular character. Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The tour, which began in April 2014 with the aim of reaching stages in every country of the world, was seen by around 300 refugees in Calais, hosted by the Good Chance project.

Though not part of the original tour, Globe artistic director Dominic Dromgoole said that ‘two years is a long time in global politics,’ and it has also been performed in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan and the Mirkazi camp in Djibouti. The stage was made from wooden pallets in the morning, which was used as shelter material once it had ended.

Hamlet is the story of a young man who is depressed and frustrated, between life and death, who does not know what to do, who is struggling to make decisions,’ said Joe Murphy, playwright and co-founder of the Good Chance project, which aims to provide a safe and welcoming space for expression in the Jungle. ‘That story is going to translate to thousands of people here who are in exactly the same position.’

Dromgoole confirmed that ‘it is a great privilege to play for displaced people in Calais. As a theatre company the only gesture we can offer is this: a show that we hope speaks to the human spirit at its greatest and its darkest moments.’

The audience were offered snacks and tea with synopses of the play in English, Kurdish, French, Arabic, Farsi and Pashto, and the reception was vastly positive. Benjamin, a builder from Iran described the language as ‘very beautiful. This is very good,’ while a young nurse forced to be a soldier in Eritrea said, ‘I’ve read the play in a book but never seen it. It is good to see theatre, good to see the English tradition. It is good to enjoy something.’

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