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Three Balkan theatres performed the three parts of Shakespeare’s complex trilogy in London – and with very different results.
Shakespeare’s Globe in London is the arena for an unusual exercise in Balkan cooperation on a foreign stage - with national theatres from Serbia, Albania and Macedonia separately undertaking the three parts of Shakespeare’s Henry VI – each in its own language.
Set during the lifetime of King Henry VI of England, in the 15th century, Part 1 deals with the loss of England’s French lands and the political machinations leading up to the dynastic feud known as the Wars of the Roses. Part 2 deals with the King’s inability to quell the bickering of his nobles, and the inevitability of armed conflict, and Part 3 deals with the horrors of that conflict.
Part 1, seen by many as the weakest of Shakespeare’s work, is in the hands of the National Theatre Belgrade, Part 2 is the work of the National Theatre of Albania and Part 3 is the province of the National Theatre Bitola, Macedonia.
While no doubts that throwing three national theatres together on what is effectively one story is brave, audiences and reviewers have questioned whether the trio successfully pull it off.
Not only do the same kings, dukes and others look – for obvious reasons – entirely different in the three sections, each theatre has naturally placed its own interpretation on the text and come up with radically different approaches.
The Guardian had most praise for the Serbian and Macedonian companies, the Serbs for investing Part I with real English historic resonance while the Macedonians have won plaudits for taking the most modern and interesting approach of the three.
As one reviewer wrote, “It was interesting to see the progress of Henry VI as he wound his way: conceited in Serbian, conflicted in Albanian and finally mad in Macedonian.”
Globe to Globe continues in London until June 9
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Is everybody in? The ceremony is about to begin…