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#cheltlitfest Blog: Bop the Bard and the Hip Hop Shakespeare Company

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You may not think that Snoop Dogg and Shakespeare belong in the same class, but this crew certainly do. The Hip Hop Shakespeare company have recently returned from a tour of Richard II (hip hop style, of course) and made a quick stop for a #cheltlitfest …around town set at the Regent Arcade last weekend.

Despite the cold weather and the hundreds of hustling shoppers, @HHShakespeare performed parts of their latest show (including Bolingbroke’s famous speech) as well as the prologue to Romeo and Juliet and some freestyle pieces. Armed with nothing but a mic and some beats, Shakespeare’s words and rhythms are put centre stage, or centre shopping mall.

“Hip-hoppers are raconteurs and so was Shakespeare,” says Joe Langdon, who was performing in the set. “For everything that anyone has ever felt or done, there will be a hip-hop song about it, and Shakespeare also covers all aspects of life.”

I’m curious as to what Joe thinks hip-hop brings to Shakespeare, apart from more relevance with young people and therefore encouraging them to get engaged. “See that’s weird,” he says, “because in my mind it’s the other way round. It’s about what Shakespeare brought to hip-hop. His language is so full of rhetorical tricks… they parallel each other in so many ways.”

Although not all of the pieces recite every syllable of Shakespeare’s words, the Company’s work gets the message and sense of rhythm across in a way that would be difficult to recreate in a theatre. Since being created in 2009 by award-winning artist (and guest curator) Akala, the company has gone from strength to strength and now works in education workshops as well as live events and tours.

Hip-hoppers are raconteurs and so was Shakespeare.

Joe Langdon

So, I ask Joe, does he think that hip-hop is the best music genre to explore Shakespeare’s work? “I don’t know, I’ve only ever really explored Shakespeare with hip-hop so I couldn’t say whether anything else is better or worse.”

Maybe that’s the next project? I suggest.

“Yeah, maybe, rock ‘n’ roll Shakespeare might be good.” He doesn’t seem convinced.

Although the Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company held one show only Akala, its founder, will be playing at the festival next weekend, as well as taking part in Great Reads live next Saturday.

Cath Lyon is our #cheltlitfest blogger reporting from events on site and …around town! You will find her on social media and the Cheltenham Festivals blog.