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Edinburgh Fringe 2021

Migrant Shakespeare

Seyyar Company (UK / Turkey / Transnational)

Genre: Adaptation, Theatre

Venue: C ARTS / C venues / C digital


Low Down

Think you know your Shakespeare? Think again! This is Shakespeare as you’ve never seen him before. ‘Trippingly on the tongue…’ Migrant actors take on the Bard, reinterpreting his words in alien environments you will never have imagined before. They give his iconic characters a new life, migrating them into the roles assigned to outsiders by society. Hamlet is a meat-packer, King Lear a construction worker, Caliban a hotel cleaner, Lady Macbeth a housewife looking after children, and Shylock washes the dishes in a restaurant. This is no one Bard: Shakespeare belongs both to no-one and to everyone.


In this thirty-minute film, Seyyar Company reevaluates several of Shakespeare’s characters and places them in a variety of contemporary settings.

Adapted and directed by Naz Yeni and spoken in English and Turkish, actors break the fourth wall, speaking their soliloquies mainly to the camera.

Locations include a supermarket, warehouse, construction site, and a modern home, endowing royal figures and others from Shakespeare’s plays completely different lives which are now based on working people and every day locations and workplaces that we recognize today. The new settings are relatable to the viewer and draw us in to see how the updated setting and character choices meld together offering new interpretations of well-known speeches.

Ten actors each portray a different character from a play by Shakespeare, in a brief vignette. The concept is fascinating, the structure of the premise works quite well and the actors are all committed to their characters. One of the most interesting qualities if this piece is that each character has been directed to imbue action into the spoken text, so that Shakespeare’s monologues are not presentational or speechifying.

Highlights in this show where the character choice, action and words meld together well to produce innovation are King Lear as a construction worker unloading building materials and leaning against a skip full of rubbish, eating lunch; Caliban  cleaning a hotel bathroom; Prospero loading boxes in a warehouse; and the most successful (but too brief!) scene is Shylock – compellingly played by the actor – clearing tables in a cafe.

One of the joys of reimagining Shakespeare and the universality of the text is to change the time and place. It is also one of the snags because the words and phrases we recognize today may have different meaning in Elizabethan language. This means that words can be taken too literally, or the chosen action impedes the flow and point of the text, or when the words and the action do not complement or enhance the other – and this is where some of the performances will benefit from more exploration.

Beautiful musical excerpts of folk and other selections separate each scene, which add atmosphere to this imaginative show.