In April of last year Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq hosted The Globe theatre, a group of talented actors who have performed “Hamlet” as part of the Hamlet Globe to Globe world tour. We were really excited and privileged to be one of the final destinations in the tour. The event generated considerable media and public interest, people from all walks of life were eager to watch the performance, and when tickets went on sale they were sold out within a few days. The event even reached beyond the Kurdistan Region and was attended by members of the cabinet and other dignitaries from the Federal Government of Iraq in Baghdad, as well as the Iraqi born UK member of parliament for Stratford upon Avon (Shakespeare’s birthplace) Nadhim Zahari MP
In a press conference prior to the performance, Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Iraq Frank Baker highlighted the fact that these culture-sharing initiatives can strengthen the ties between people in the Kurdistan Region and UK. The night of the performance crowds of upwards of 1300 people from all sections of society from ministers and the deputy prime minister to university students and IDP’s (internally displaced people) watched the performance. The power of Shakespeare brought everyone together for 2 hours to celebrate the life of Shakespeare on what was a magical night in Erbil. Linked to the performance the Shakespeare Lives programme republished a translation of Hamlet into Sorani Kurdish, copies of which were distributed to schools and universities which study the play as part of the curriculum. The proceeds from the ticket sales were handed to Mercy Corps, an NGO, to fund refugee drama workshops in Iraq. The Shakespeare Lives initiative proved to be a great success, and Hamlet served as a fundamental step towards utilizing the art of theatre to bring societies in Iraq together.