The second annual Shakespeare Festival in Turkey took place on April 5-20, 2019 co-chaired by Prof. Dr. Ömer Sekerci and Dr. İlker Özçelik of Suleyman Demirel University. With a total of 26 events over 14 days including six live performances, three recorded performances and a multi-speaker conference, the festival consisted of a wide range of exciting events held in Isparta, İstanbul, Ankara, and İzmir.
Mustafa Kurt, guest of honour and director of the Turkish State Theatres, gave an inspiring speech and shared some very excellent news for the festival, announcing that the Turkish State Theatres would support the festival with more Shakespeare productions this year and in future years.
For this year’s festival, there were six live performances: Hamlet (Istanbul State Theaters), The Merry Wives of Windsor (Antalya State Theaters), The Ineffable Story of Romeo and Juliet (İstanbul Sahnealtı Company), King Lear (İstanbul Oyun Atölyesi), Bir Baba Hamlet (İstanbul Baba Sahne), and Romeo and Juliet Ballet (İzmir Opera and Ballet). The festival was very fortunate to have many famous actors on stage or on air, including Bülent Emin Yarar, Haluk Bilginer, Şevket Çoruh, Selçuk Yöntem, and Atilla Olgaç, to name but a few. The radio drama performed by Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) featured a great many eminent actors and actresses.
The festival started with a performance of Tchaikovsky’s ballet of Romeo and Juliet by the Izmir State Opera and Ballet Company which was followed by two versions of Hamlet, one from TRT Radio and the other a State Theatre performance starring Bülent Emin Yarar, who also gave an introductory talk earlier in the day. The performance of a solo Hamlet by the talented actor Bülent Emin Yarar was perhaps one of the most anticipated productions of the festival, though even Yarar himself was surprised by the idea of a 59 year old actor playing a one-man Hamlet and told the audience of his talk that when director Işıl Kasapoğlu first proposed the idea to him, he could not even whisper a reply for many seconds and the first words he could say were “All characters?… How?” When the show ended that evening, the audience froze in silence for several minutes.
These events were closely followed by an exhibition of ceramics created by the Assoc. Prof. Serap Ünal of SDU Ceramics Research and Development Centre featuring the works of Shakespeare. Next there was a musical performance from the SDU Chamber Orchestra. On the same day the Third SDU English Language and Literature Conference took place, with stimulating and informative lectures. Assoc. Prof. Mustafa Şahiner of Akdeniz University delivered a talk entitled: “The Turk image in the English Renaissance”, with a special focus on the historical perspective. He was followed by Prof. Arda Arıkan from Akdeniz University, who gave a delightful lecture “Shakespeare in Fun: A Gallery of Nonsensical Bulk on his Legacy”. Lastly, Assoc. Prof. Betüre Memmedova of Süleyman Demirel University gave a talk entitled “Shakespeare among thorns”, gi insights into the debate over Shakespeare’s identity. The next day the SDU Rock Society provided the entertainment with a rock concert.
The tragedy King Lear was the next performance, with one of the most versatile and beloved actors in the title role: Haluk Bilginer. The 65-year old star shines brightest in the darkest moments of Shakespeare’s bleakest tragedy. The play is modern in its setting, with cinematic lighting and effects. The next two days saw production of Shakespeare’s comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor by Antalya State Theaters. The production was outrageously funny, with charming performances by all actors involved. This fundamentally timeless tale was followed by another comedy The Taming of the Shrew performed by students of Cağaloğlu Anatolian High School and directed by their skilful English teacher Öznur Özcü. ‘Baba Sahne’ performed their adaptation of Hamlet starring Şevket Çoruh and Murat Akkoyunlu. The final events of the festival were the showing a film featuring selections from Shakespeare’s plays, a documentary of Shakespeare’s life by Korhan Koryürek and Gülşah Özdemir Koryürek. Another highlight was the display of letters to Juliet written by Festival participants, which were sent to the Juliet Club in Italy.
With so many performance and displays crammed into two weeks, the festival again provided stimulating and informative experiences for everyone who attended. Next year’s festival is awaited with eager anticipation.