On 24th May 2016 the British Council together with the Moscow Metro launched a specially liveried "Shakespeare train" to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death as part of British Council’s UK-Russia Year of Language and Literature 2016 and the “Poetry on the Metro” project.
William Shakespeare has been called ‘the master of human emotions’ and not without good reason. His characters suffer the loss of loved ones; are persecuted and downtrodden; they brim with hatred; puff up with vanity; yet achieve great things in the name of love and country. We can relate to these emotions, yet the way we express them has changed. Where four hundred years ago we might have written poems and sung songs or confided secrets in letters and diaries, today we express ourselves through private messaging and public posting, with increasing concision through photos and emoji.
The Train playfully explores this development by expressing the passions of Macbeth, King Lear, Romeo, Juliet and others through the modern vernacular of emoji and the Bard’s original blank verse. From this arises a conversation between the passions written as poetry and as emoji: the power of each language depending on the fluency of the reader in either language.
The exterior of the carriages is decorated with photos of Muscovites experiencing being magically transported into Shakespeare's time (and costumes) by their passions. Each larger-than-life portrait is surrounded by emoji for love, hate, power, conflict and so on. The same emojis are found inside the carriages illustrating Shakespearean quotations related to passions. The emoji draw passengers to the quotations, where they can consider the emotions expressed and imagine themselves as Shakespearean characters, if only for a stop or two.
At the end of each carriage are “selfie points” and throughout the train links can be found to a free mini-site accessible via the Metro wifi, where passengers can learn more about the playwright, download a Emoji Shakespeare app and enter competitions with prizes including a trip to Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford upon Avon.
The train can be found on the Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya line of the Moscow Metro.