Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle
SHAKESPEARE as you've never seen him before - that's the aim
of members of the National Youth Theatre (NYT) who, alongside
teenagers from Hackney, are preparing three plays for the Hoxton
Square festival on July 30 and August 1, 2004.
They will focus on the Bard's early career, in Shoreditch, and
be given a decidedly contemporary slant. In fact, rumour has it
that William will be portrayed as a pop star whose stories of
street life are as relevant today as they were in Elizabethan
Although usually associated with the Globe Theatre, in Southwark,
Shakespeare lived in Shoreditch during the last decade of the
16th century where, according to Paul Roseby, the artistic director
of the NYT, he wrote such works as Romeo and Juliet and
A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Over the years, Shoreditch has become the fashionable centre
for British modern arts, so is a fitting setting in more ways
Roseby believes that Shakespeare drew on his experiences in Shoreditch
for much of his work but simply changed the locations.
"It wasn't The Merchant
of Venice, it was the merchant of Kingsland Road, E2. It
was clearly about that," he insists.
About 200 youngsters from youth groups in Hackney auditioned
for the project and although, at first, they voiced misgivings
- largely on account of Hoxton Square's bohemian image and Shakespeare's
perceived stuffiness - all were dispelled when comparisons with
present day life were pointed out - an obvious allusion to the
rivalry that, even now, exists between the inhabitants of Hackney
and Tottenham - Shakespeare's Montagues and Capulets, according
The three, half-hour plays, one of which will be performed on
the hour, every hour, during the festival, will combine aspects
of Shakespeare's life in Shoreditch with 'text from some of his
plays that were written and performed while he was there'.
To this, Roseby added: "Do not expect two and a half hours
of Hamlet. Expect three minutes of Hamlet and
then a lot of Shoreditch. We're artistically leading it, but it's
got to come from them - it's very much their voice.
"We really want it to be street-based and as surprising
as possible, because that's exactly how Shakespeare pulled in
Accordingly, unsuspecting passers-by will be accosted by actors
disguised as road sweepers or car park attendants, in an attempt
at, to quote Roseby, 'guerilla Shakespeare'.