London: One of William Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies – ‘Hamlet’ – is being translated into the Black Country dialect as part of a project that aims to record, celebrate and preserve the distinctive language. ‘Yamlet’ – incorporating the Black Country word ‘yam’, meaning ‘you are’ – will see the titular character perform translated excerpts in locations around the town of Cradley Heath in the West Midlands region.
Yamlet will be portrayed by Birmingham School of Acting postgraduate student Stuart Ash. The actor, who comes from Stourbridge in the Black Country, will be filmed on location in period Elizabethan costume, and his performances will be broadcast throughout April on Facebook, Twitter, ‘YowTube’ and ‘InstaYam’. “It’s a fantastic project for me to be working on and something that’s very close to my heart. I’m really proud of my Stourbridge roots, and playing Yamlet will be a great opportunity for me to tap in to that side of me as an actor,” said Ash, MA Acting student at Birmingham City University. “I’ve picked up a few words and phrases from the script that I’d never heard before. It’ll be really interesting to see what people who are from the Black Country – and people who aren’t – will make of it.”
The Black Country is an area of the West Midlands in England, north and west of Birmingham. In the Industrial Revolution, it became one of the most industrialised parts of Britain with coal mines, coking, iron foundries and steel mills producing a high level of air pollution.
It is believed its name comes from the soot produced by these heavy industries that covered the area.
The distinctive dialect and language of the Black Country has preserved many archaic traits from Early Modern English and Middle English and is thought to be one of the last forms of early English still spoken today.
‘Yamlet’ has been devised by Philip Holyman and Gareth Nicholls, Co-Directors of Walsall-based theatre company Little Earthquake and Visiting Lecturers at Birmingham School of Acting, part of Birmingham City University.
“‘Yamlet’ is intended as a tongue-in-cheek response to some serious cultural problems; chiefly, the enshrinement of Shakespeare’s work as a monument to high – or non-popular – culture, which excludes many people from experiencing it, and the question of how to preserve individual cultural heritage in drama training,” Holyman said.
“I am increasingly interested in breaking down a deep-rooted Black Country suspicion that theatre is something which is made by and for people ‘elsewhere’, with no relevance or connection to local people or the local area.
‘Yamlet’, therefore, is designed to take a step towards making Shakespeare more accessible by relocating sections of his most famous play to the Black Country – in terms of language, space and performer – and also through non-theatre-based distribution platforms.