The Art of Displacement: Exploring Shakespeare and Migration

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February 28, 2017
Time to read: 3 minutes
Shakespeare and Migration - Hook Research

What can we learn from Shakespeare in the modern day? From Twitter groups that elevate the under-represented to podcasters bonding over guilty pleasures, community building and belonging are topics that have dominated recent conversations with respondents. At Hook Research, we recently had a chance to speak with Arne Pohlmeier, a theatre director who is tackling these themes head on.

In our latest Talking Human video, Arne discusses his work with migrant actors and explains how his productions highlight moments of community, empathy, and displacement in the Bard’s texts – issues that are just as relevant now as they were 400 years ago. Take a look at the video to find out more:

A life of displacement

“My biography is one of displacement, I guess you could say. I spent my early childhood predominately in Cameroon, and then I spent my teenage years in the States. I’m originally from Germany, and now I live in London. I’ve got a background of having moved around, and having that experience of being a foreigner or an outsider to the society that I live in.

So I know the challenges of being in that position, but also the opportunities: the insights that you gain from being within a society, but being outside it at the same time. And that’s something that I like exploring in my work, and that’s something that to me always links back to the way I explore Shakespeare as the one big source of inspiration – as the one big source of material – that I keep coming back to.”

Shakespeare and Migration - Hook Research

Exploring Shakespeare and migration

“The kind of work that I do in theatre brings together these elements of working with Shakespeare’s text and exploring themes of migration and displacement. The thing that Shakespeare really does unlike anyone else is explore the flux of human life and how that is an essential part of our human experience. There are so many moments within Shakespeare’s stories where the experience of change is fundamental.

Migration and displacement are themes that define our time. That there is something we are dealing with, that Shakespeare was dealing with 400 years ago, means that it must be a fundamental issue. If he was dealing with it back then, and we’re still chewing the same subject, then that is a subject that is highlighting the human condition and its fundamental elements.

I like to think that what my work does is bringing two seemingly disparate elements together, and you go ‘Oh wow, this actually works’.”

Shifting perceptions to create empathy

“We as artists have a responsibility and an opportunity to shift perceptions. And so if I’m working with a group of migrants from a broad range of backgrounds, and we’re exploring stories that are going to the heart of our experiences as migrants then that is going to give something to the audience. That might be the seed of walking out of that experience and going ‘Ah, I’ve never looked at it like that’.

It’s this idea of community building, it’s this idea of developing empathy, and also of remembering our humanity – our shared experience of what it means to be human”

Enjoy the video? Check out the rest of Hook Research’s Talking Human series, and be sure to visit Two Gents Productions or Bards Without Borders to find out more about Arne and his work.

As always, if you’d like to have a chat with Hook, be sure to get in touch.


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