Globe theatre taking Hamlet to North Korea

LONDON (AFP) - Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London will take a production of Hamlet to North Korea next year as part of a vast world tour, it said on Monday.

The Globe's actors will perform the play in the secretive state in September 2015 as part of its 'Globe to Globe' tour marking the 450th anniversary of the English playwright's birth.

The exact tour dates in North Korea are yet to be confirmed, a spokesman for the theatre said.

The plot of Hamlet revolves around family feuds and Hamlet's eventual killing of his uncle, echoing recent events in North Korea where leader Kim Jong-Un's regime ordered the execution of his uncle Jang Song-Thaek in December last year.

Jang, once the country's unofficial number two and Kim's political mentor, was put to death on December 12 on an array of charges including corruption and plotting to overthrow the state.

The theatre has pledged to send a troupe of "16 extraordinary men and women" - including 12 actors and four stage managers - to perform Hamlet in every country in the world. The mammoth tour will begin on April 23 this year.

The production will be directed by the theatre's artistic director Dominic Dromgoole and Bill Buckhurst.

The Globe said the idea for the tour grew from a festival it hosted two years ago when 37 theatre companies from 37 countries performed the complete works of Shakespeare at its London home. The event took place despite calls for some of the companies, including one from Israel, to be excluded for political reasons.

The Globe said the "inclusive and celebratory spirit of that festival" led to their decision to tour Hamlet in every country in the world.

"We have decided that every country means every country, since we believe that every country is better off for the presence of Hamlet," the theatre said in a statement.

"Shakespeare can entertain and speak to anyone, no matter where in the world they are.

Human rights group Amnesty International urged the theatre to "read up on the reality of the country before they get there", but did not go as far as urging the Globe to boycott North Korea.

"No tragic play could come close to the misery that the 100,000 people trapped in the country's prison camps endure - where torture, rape, starvation and execution are everyday occurrences," Amnesty said in a statement.

"There's a dark irony in the fact that Hamlet focuses on a prince wrestling with his conscience. Kim Jong-Un is no Hamlet. Sadly he shows no sign of wrestling with his conscience."

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