LONDON Aug 28 Tourists and shoppers in London's
bustling Covent Garden fell silent and grappled for their
cameras as one man sang lines from Shakespeare's "The Tempest"
and a flash mob of wig-wearing actors boogied to pop songs
before melting into the crowd.
Over in minutes, the "Shakespeare pop-up" is one of a series
taking place on London's streets this week, as actors ambush the
public, giving personalised one-to-one performances of some of
the Bard's most famous passages to mark the start of the
Paralympic Games on Wednesday.
Classic characters such as Puck, Hamlet, Cleopatra and
Juliet, along with more modern flashmob stunts, will be played
by a cast of 50 performers that includes deaf and disabled
"A lot of the actors we're using are not actors,
unfortunately, that you will see at the Globe or the Royal
Shakespeare Company," said actor Mark Rylance, who created the
"They have a much more unique and individual approach with
the stuff," he said, describing the performance of Hamlet's "to
be or not to be" soliloquy by one actor with Down's Syndrome as
"Talking from memory, because of his syndrome, it takes an
enormous amount of concentration for him to speak the words, so
it appears that he is digging it from so deep inside to share it
with you," Rylance said.
Shakespeare, Britain's greatest cultural export, featured
prominently in the opening and closing ceremonies of the London
Olympic Games and the city has now shifted its focus to the
"We've certainly tried to mirror (the Paralympics) in the
range of abilities of people involved," said actor Jonathan
Moore, who directed the performances for the London 2012
"I think it's completely congruent with Shakespeare's
all-embracing humanity, the fact that he can speak to everybody
not just in terms of different cultures, in terms of different
intellectual ability, but in terms of every ability," Moore
A record 2.4 million tickets have already been sold for the
London Paralympics, overtaking the previous record set four
years ago in Beijing by 600,000.
The success of Britain's Olympic athletes, who won the most
gold medals of any British team since 1908, is thought to have
boosted ticket sales.
(Reporting by Alice Baghdjian)