I was indulging an old love of mine – watching repeats of ER – when I spied a very promising documentary that was on the channel next. It was entitled “Shakespeare, India and Me” and followed British actor Felicity Kendal as she returned to her childhood home of India and charted Shakespeare’s progress and influence in that massive country.
I was fascinated. It focused on how Shakespeare’s plays first came to India, the first Indian actors in a Shakespeare play, the translation of Shakespeare into native Indian languages, and then the adoption and adaptation of Shakespeare in Indian drama and film (yes, Bollywood included!)
Something that particularly struck me was a comment Felicity Kendal made about her father. I hadn’t known that her parents were actors, and in fact had had a troupe which toured around India performing plays – including to royalty! She mentioned that her father didn’t want to be known as an actor, but rather as a “missionary”, spreading the word of Shakespeare. Now that’s a job description I would love.
It also got me thinking about the role and place of Shakespeare in this former British colony of New Zealand, and makes me even more proud of an endeavour like this one:
which was an entirely Maori language version of Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida, performed as a part of the Globe to Globe multi-lingual productions of every Shakespeare play last year.
It goes to show, doesn’t it, that Shakespeare truly was “not of an age, but for all time”.