Shakespeare gets rap treatment

Anthony CarrollShakespeare will get a rap makeover in Yarmouth this month as Mobo award winner Akala brings his Hip Hop Shakespeare Company to the town as part of BBC Blast workshops.Anthony Carroll

'To be or not be, dat is da question innit?'

That poor attempt at quoting the greatest playwright in British history would surely get Shakespeare lovers penning letters of complaint.

And fans of the Bard are sure to scratch their heads in confusion if they hear 'Alas poor Dizzee Rascal, I knew him, Horatio, my main homie' instead of a fitting tribute to the dead Yorick in Hamlet.

But for youngsters in Yarmouth, using the seemingly bizarre modern language craze of hip hop will help them find out about the wonders of Shakespeare's literary genius.


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On Saturday, May 30, the acclaimed rapper Akala will be showing young people in the town how the playwright's masterful use of English bears a strong resemblance to themes in the modern music scene.

During two Hip Hop Shakespeare Company workshops in the Market Place, the Mobo award-winning artist will get young people aged 13 to 19 to write and perform their own hip hop songs based on the Bard's work.

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So creative would-be rappers, also known as MCs, may be able to perform Henry V - Live From the Hood or Romeo and my Julie.

The Hip Hop Shakespeare Company was set up by Akala last year after he realised the Bard's emotional soliloquies and dramatic and violent themes are still relevant today.

Akala said: 'After rapping about Shakespeare in some of my songs, I developed the moniker the Rap Shakespearean among the press and my fans. In 2008, I decided to look for ways to spread my own love of Shakespeare to other young people in a more structured manner.'

The two Shakespeare hip hop sessions are part of a national BBC Blast entertainment event from May 28 to 30 which will see Yarmouth's Market Place also host street dance, musical theatre and performance workshops.

Also included in the three-day event will be the chance to record demo tracks and find out what the world of television and radio journalism involves. It culminates with a talent showcase performance on the Saturday afternoon.

Mark Denbigh, from BBC Blast, said: 'It is brilliant that we have Mobo award winner Akala with us in Yarmouth bringing a fresh new look at Shakespeare.

'This workshop aims to give young people an understanding of the similarities between rap and Shakespeare using themes, rhythm, rhyme and wordplay.

'BBC Blast is a great opportunity for young people to learn new skills or take their existing skills to the next level. Yarmouth is full of young talent and this is a great platform for them to show off what they have got.'

For information on all the workshops and activities from May 28 to 30, visit www.bbc.co.uk/blast/events

Places for the Hip Hop Shakespeare Company workshops and the other sessions must be booked in advance by e-mailing blast-greatyarmouth@bbc.co.uk

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