The Bard Strikes Back

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Enjoy the Many Tales of Shakespeare at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2016

ACT 1, SCENE 1: Dubai, 14 December, 2015

‘To be or not to be’ is not the question at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature (March 1-12 2016). The question is how not to miss any of the 12 days of literary revelry, poetry and fun. From theatrical performances to amazing adaptations of the Bard’s plays, come along to revel in Shakespeare as never before. The old, the young, and the middle aged, the Shakespeare Strand has it covered.

Featuring Steven Berkoff, David and Ben Crystal and Marcia Williams, it is time to take a trip back to the 1600s with panels, talks and workshops as we pay tribute to the legend that is Shakespeare.

2 Shakespeare (1024x768)ACT 1, SCENE 2: The Director’s Speech

Isobel Abulhoul, CEO and Trustee of the Emirates Literature Foundation and Festival Director of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature said of the Shakespeare strand:

‘Not of an age, but for all time’ and Shakespeare’s body of work penned in the 16th century, continues to have a huge influence on 21st century writers, and not just in English, but in languages across the globe. His genius as a playwright and poet will be celebrated at the 2016 Festival marking 400 years since his death. The Bard once wrote, ‘With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come’ and there is sure to be much laughter at next year’s Festival.

ACT 2, SCENE 1: All the World’s a Stage

‘…And all the men and women merely players.’ Understand the motivations behind Shakespeare’s greatest villains with Steven Berkoff’s acclaimed one-man play Shakespeare’s Villains. Created and performed by stage and screen actor Berkoff in 1998, the play has been a sensational hit around the world for nearly two decades.

Attending the Festival for the first-time are two powerhouses of British television and well-known Shakespeare thespians. The Kumars at No. 42 star Meera Syal has played Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing in the past and she will be at the Festival discussing her moving new novel The House of Hidden Mothers.

Fans of comedy might be surprised to learn that the man behind the hapless father in My Family is also an award-winning Shakespearean actor. Versatile star Robert Lindsay will be talking about his life and career through his autobiography Letting Go.

Indulge in the world of Shakespeare like never before with a host of theatre and film screenings. From Laurence Olivier’s seminal turn as Hamlet, to the first Juba Arabic version of a Shakespeare play, the Festival will showcase a number of adaptations to suit every palate.

ACT 2, SCENE 2: Shakespeare at the Festival

Know your ‘thee’ from your ‘thou’ with our exceptional panel of Shakespeare experts. Father and son duo David and Ben Crystal will be on hand to discuss their Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary, placing the language of the Bard in the context of the Elizabethan era. ‘Many wearing rapiers are afraid of goosequills’ also applies most aptly to the works of George Orwell and his consummate use of language. David Crystal will give the annual Orwell Lecture with Ben Crystal reading excerpts from Orwell’s books.

Speaking of relevance, a number of the Festival authors’ works have been directly influenced by Shakespeare over the years. Historian John Julius Norwich has investigated the Bard’s works for their accuracy as historical texts, while Kuwaiti playwright and director Sulayman Al-Bassam, who founded the Sulayman Al-Bassam Theatre (SABAB), examines the Bard’s appeal in the Gulf region and why many in the Arab World have adopted him as Shaikh Al-Zubair.

As part of the global celebration of Shakespeare’s legacy, the Festival will be bringing participants of the Sonnet Exchanges to Dubai. Award-winning poet Imtiaz Dharker and several Emirati poets will be reciting their own versions of some of Shakespeare’s most famous sonnets.

ACT 2, SCENE 3: Shakespeare for One, Shakespeare for All

Organisers encourage audiences to make a family day out of the Festival with introductions to Shakespeare for children. One look at Marcia Williams’ intricately illustrated Shakespeare books will have the most reluctant reader hooked. Her books, including Tales from Shakespeare and Bravo, Mr. William Shakespeare!, cover some of the Bard’s most famous plays A Merchant of Venice, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest, Romeo and Juliet and King Lear.

For a unique Shakespearean experience, children can join Morna McDonald’s ‘Bamboozled by the Bard’ workshop. Back by popular demand, this workshop uses drama to explain the language and concepts of the plays to young audiences.

Even more opportunities for aspiring performers await at the Trinity Music and Festival City Mall Fringe Stages. Slots are filling up quickly and students are encouraged to contact the Festival for a place.

Trinity College London have started their Shakespeare workshops, the first step in a programme that will culminate in March 2016 with a live performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, presented by students and directed by teachers from schools across Dubai.

ACT 3, SCENE 1: All’s Well that Ends Well

The ‘inaudible and noiseless foot of time’ has not stopped the world’s fascination with Shakespeare and his many great characters. Centuries later the Bard continues to live on through his collections of plays and poetry and never will he be more alive than at the Festival next year, be it through words, performances or recitals.

All information about the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is online. Check for updates at Join us on Facebook (, Twitter (, Instagram ( and YouTube ( for competitions and more updates.