By Ian Youngs
BBC News Online entertainment staff
A little-known chapter in William
Shakespeare's life is being retold for the 21st Century by teenagers in one of the UK's most deprived areas.
Shakespeare lived in Shoreditch at the end of the 16th Century
The Bard's early career in Shoreditch,
London, will be the subject of three
plays created by teenagers from Hackney
with the National Youth Theatre (NYT).
They are expected to cast Shakespeare
as a pop star whose tales of gangs and
street life still resonate today.
The plays will be part of a festival in
Hoxton Square from 30 July to 1 August.
Shakespeare lived in Shoreditch in the last decade of
the 16th Century and wrote classic plays including Romeo & Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Dream there, according to NYT artistic director Paul Roseby.
But the Bard is usually associated with The Globe
Theatre in Southwark, while Shoreditch is now known as the fashionable centre of the British modern art
Mr Roseby said Shakespeare got much of his inspiration from Shoreditch - but changed many of the settings.
"It wasn't the Merchant of Venice, it was the Merchant
of Kingsland Road, E2. It was clearly about that," he
The NYT auditioned about 200 young people from Hackney youth groups - many of whom were sceptical about Hoxton Square because of its arty image and about Shakespeare because he was seen as stuffy.
But they warmed to the idea when parallels were drawn
with modern life, such as gang rivalries that forbid relationships between people from Hackney and Tottenham, Mr Roseby said.
"This is your Montagues and your Capulets. This is
Hackney and Tottenham.
"So you start with this premise and go 'well,
interesting you should say that because a bloke called Shakespeare, who lived around the corner here and was the pop idol of his time, actually did exactly that story - so nothing's changed'."
The teenagers will create three half-hour plays, with
one performed on the hour every hour at the festival.
In London, Shakespeare is normally associated with The Globe Theatre
"They are going to be based on the life of William
Shakespeare in Shoreditch, mixed with
Shakespeare text from some of his plays that were
written and performed while he was there," Mr Roseby
But he added: "Do not expect two-and-a-half hours of Hamlet. Expect three minutes of Hamlet and then a lot of Shoreditch. We're artistically leading it, but it's
got to come from them - it's very much their voice.
"We really want it to be street-based and as
surprising as possible, because that's exactly how
Shakespeare pulled in his audience."
Some actors will be disguised as road sweepers or car
park attendants and spout lines at unsuspecting
passers-by in an attempt at "guerilla Shakespeare", Mr
The NYT also hopes to have a Shakespeare figure
responding to text messages from the audience.
The Globe, The Reduced Shakespeare Company and artist Gavin Turk will be involved in other festival
performances and projects.
Meanwhile, the NYT is turning the story of boozy British
tourists in the Greek resort of Faliraki into a play
to be staged at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith in
August and September.
"Faliraki highlights those Brits abroad and takes us on a journey that will focus on two under-age lovers, Carling and Chardonnay, and looks at the pressure that these people on holiday feel and enjoy, or endure," Mr Roseby said.