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Steven Berkoff and Meera Syal signed up for worldwide Shakespeare 400th anniversary festival

Meera Syal in Much Ado About Nothing at the Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, in 2012. Photo: Tristram Kenton Meera Syal in Much Ado About Nothing at the Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, in 2012. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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Steven Berkoff, Meera Syal and Graeae Theatre Company are among those taking part in a major worldwide festival in 2016, marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

Curated by the British Council and the Great Britain campaign, Shakespeare Lives will aim to reach more than 140 countries with new productions, screenings, readings and teaching surrounding his plays.

Graeae will create a new version of Romeo and Juliet alongside Bangladesh’s Dhaka Theatre, starring disabled performers, while Northern Irish theatre company Terra Nova will stage The Belfast Tempest at Belfast’s docks, starring more than 200 actors from around the world.

Another major project, Play Your Part, will ask people from across the world to film themselves reading from the writer’s plays, clips of which will then be stitched together to create a “crowd-sourced performance” of his works.

Syal and Berkoff are among writers who will respond to Shakespeare’s sonnets in new ways for the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, while Tim Crouch will do the same at events in Malaysia and India.

The year of programming will also see BBC Arts host a six-month online festival that will showcase the best of modern British Shakespeare interpretations, including a day of broadcasting live events on April 23.

British Council chief executive Ciaran Devane described Shakespeare as “one of the earliest and most enduring examples of cultural impact and relations”.

“His works have not only inspired the broadest range of artistic endeavour and motivated political change but also given people from all walks of life a platform for self-expression through the genius of his language,” he said.

The year will also see the extension of educational programmes by companies including the Royal Shakespeare Company and Shakespeare’s Globe, with further events to be announced.

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