LONDON (Reuters) - A festival bringing together 37 companies from around the world to perform Shakespeare's 37 plays in different languages kicks off at London's Globe theatre on Monday with a Maori version of "Troilus and Cressida".
The initiative, called Globe to Globe, is part of a wider World Shakespeare Festival as well as the London 2012 Festival that ties in with the summer Olympics.
South Sudan, South Africa, Belarus and Afghanistan are among the countries represented, and for the first time a Shakespeare play will be publicly performed in its entirety in British sign language.
Definitely Theatre from London will translate the pun-riddled comedic text of "Love's Labour's Lost" as part of what the Royal Shakespeare Company is calling the biggest ever festival dedicated to the Bard and his plays.
"We are hugely excited to throw open our doors to the world," said Tom Bird, director of the Globe to Globe festival held at the Globe, the replica of Shakespeare's original theatre.
"This festival offers the chance to see well-known plays in a new way, with the cultural influences and theatre conventions of countries you may never have visited.
"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience Shakespeare's work in a way that you're unlikely ever to have seen it before, and a chance for the communities of London to hear his stories in their mother tongue."
Underlining how Shakespeare's dramas resonate today, the Globe will see the three Henry VI plays about England's first great civil war turned into an epic and sweeping Balkan trilogy featuring national theatres from Serbia, Albania and Macedonia.
The series has not been without controversy, however.
A group of leading British actors, directors and film makers signed a letter last month objecting to the inclusion of Israel's National Theatre, Habima, which is due to perform "The Merchant of Venice" in Hebrew in late May.
The letter, published in the Guardian newspaper, attacked what it called Habima's "shameful" record of involvement with Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories and urged the Globe to withdraw its invitation.
(Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)