To celebrate Shakespeare Lives, Bangladesh's Dhaka Theatre and the UK's Graeae Theatre Company presented ‘A Different Romeo and Juliet’ at the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy on 28 and 29 March 2016. The production was a part of a wider British Council, Bangladesh project that empowers people with disabilities through theatre workshops exploring identity and sense of self-worth. A Different Romeo and Juliet was a 75-minute theatre production. This was a truly unique project as it was performed by 14 highly talented artists with disability. The project is jointly led by Jenny Sealey, Artistic Director of Graeae Theatre Company, UK and Dhaka Theatre’s Nasiruddin Yousuff as the Producer.
‘A Different Romeo and Juliet’, as the name suggests, was different from other theatre productions which the Dhaka audience is familiar with. Starting off with the jubilant scene of a cricket match between arch-rivals Khan Eleven and Chowdhury Eleven, the play instantly took the audience into the plot as Romeo and Juliet came across each other at a traditional wedding scene. The actors danced and flipped on stage overcoming their physical limitations, and urged the audience to join in their celebration of life.
The play was designed to be comprehensible for deaf people as well with each character having a shadow copy articulating the action on stage in sign language. The well rounded production, encircling the archetypal young lovers Romeo and Juliet, casted Rabbi Mia and Tayfur Rahman Roman as the male lead.
HE Alison Blake, Honourable British High Commissioner to Bangladesh said, “I am delighted that the British Council Bangladesh’s version of one of his great works titled as ‘A different Romeo and Juliet’ takes this a step further to celebrate the Bard’s 400th anniversary. In this special year of an ‘Inclusive Commonwealth’, the performance by disabled Bangladeshi actors is an example of inclusivity and demonstrates that no-one should be left behind regardless of their ability,” said Alison Blake. The British Council launched this ambitious project in 2013 with a focus on bringing the people with disabilities to the light and showcasing their acting prowess to help pave the way for breaking social stereotypes.