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May 30, 2017

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'Hamlet' tour gets a standing ovation at UN Headquarters

UNITED NATIONS--A production of William Shakespeare's "Hamlet" that hopes to visit every country in the world in two years landed at the United Nations on Monday, with the tale of the dithering Danish prince getting a boisterous, standing ovation from top diplomats.

The stripped-down Shakespeare's Globe theater production played inside a chamber in the U.N.'s New York headquarters for some 500 guests, against a backdrop of real world crises in Gaza and the Ukraine.

"It's an absolute delight to be here. It's extraordinary. It feels very, very odd. But very pleasurably odd," said Dominic Dromgoole, the Shakespeare's Globe artistic director. "We like bold ideas. We like bold, simple — some would say stupid — ideas."

The tour's goal is to visit 205 nations and territories — the numbers are somewhat in flux as statehood demands rage — in seven continents. It landed in New York having already been seen in 28 countries and having accumulated 19,295 miles (31,053 kilometers) since it began this spring at its London home, a reconstructed Elizabethan playhouse beside the River Thames.

The show is spare: a few steamer trunks, cloth sheets, some wood beams and rope are all the scenery on hand, and the actors play multiple roles as well as instruments such as drums, violins and mandolins. But there's no denying the words and message from an exuberant cast. The audience included actress Kim Cattrall and performance artist Laurie Anderson in the front row.

The troupe, which already has performed in places as diverse as opera halls, market places and beaches, hopes to visit all the world's countries, including Iraq, North Korea and Syria. They also hope to perform in the West Bank, though no firm plans have been announced.

"Inclusivity is a much better policy than exclusivity," said Dromgoole. "If you do start excluding anyone, you do have to ask the question 'Where do you start and where do you stop?'"

The show already has played Moscow and Ukraine's capital of Kiev, where the show debuted on May 24, the night before the most recent elections, and president-elect Petro Poroshenko was in attendance.

The production, which is not sponsored or subsidized by any group, next moves on to Central America and the Caribbean, stopping in the Bahamas on Wednesday and on to Mexico, Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica. Later this summer it will head to Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

The tour involves a portable set and a 12-person, multicultural cast that includes Hong Kong-born actress Jennifer Leong and Maori actor Rawiri Paratene. The production is directed by Dromgoole and Bill Buckhurst, who travel with four stage managers.

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