This is a wonderful book about a miraculous journey. On Shakespeare’s 450th birthday, 23 April 2014, twelve actors and four stage managers left the Globe to pursue what Dominic Dromgoole, then its artistic director, calls ‘a daft idea floated in a bar’. Two years later, on the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, they were back there, having taken his rough-theatre production of Hamlet to almost every country in the world. Well, not to North Korea, which refused to allow the performance unless music, dance and acrobatics were substituted for words, and not to Syria, though Zaatari, a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, stands in for it. But they did stage the play in Iraq, Iran, Mongolia and East Timor, and places few but geographers will know much about, including Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Kiribati. On Palau, at the centre of a Pacific archipelago, the company was greeted by a Rolls-Royce containing a ferocious woman claiming to be the island’s queen, who threatened to cancel their performance if she wasn’t given $1,500.
Obviously Dromgoole hasn’t space for all of the 190-odd nations his troupe ended up visiting. Moreover, his book isn’t just a theatrical travelogue. Polonius might call it historical-philosophical-political-confessional-critical-academical, though throughout it fizzes with its author’s generosity of spirit, canny observations and talent for lively writing. Any student of