Jade Goody's tragic life inspires play at Shakespeare's Globe

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The Independent Culture

Jade Goody's life, long heralded as a modern breed of tragedy, is the direct inspiration for a play to be performed at Shakespeare's Globe later this year.

The London theatre will host the world premiere of The God of Soho, by the playwright and novelist Chris Hannan, in September. The play is inspired by the late author and Big Brother contestant, who died in 2009. According to Hannan, the production will tackle society's increasing obsession with celebrity and fame.

"One of the starting points for the production was a friend of mine talking about celebrities," said Hannan. "I had always wondered whether the Globe was an appropriate venue for a play tackling contemporary issues. And then I saw the 2008 play The Frontline there, which dealt with more modern themes, and I became convinced it would be possible."

The writer described the Globe's central space, with its pillars and 17th-century sensibilities, as "very democratic". "It's like a bearpit," he added. "And I think the modern-day tabloid press, where the stories of Jordan and Goody play out, are equally something of a bear pit."

The play's two central locations are Soho and Essex; its cast of characters will include the homeless, celebrities, sex-workers and fetishists. According to a Globe spokesperson, "Hannan was reluctant to pen the play when first approached by the venue's artistic director, Dominic Dromgoole." But the playwright became fascinated with the public's relationships with glamour models such as Jordan, and with the drama surrounding reality television contestants. "They are famous for being themselves, not for being singers, actresses and models," the playwright added. He said that Goody's life was a "big starting point" for writing the play.

The dramatic chapters of Goody's life have been the subject of intense media scrutiny. When the Essex-born reality star first appeared on Channel 4's reality gameshow Big Brother in 2002, she became the subject of sustained tabloid ridicule. After briefly turning her public profile around, a return to Big Brother in 2005 saw her embroiled in a high-profile racism scandal involving the Indian actress Shilpa Shetty. In February 2009, she was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Also featuring in the Globe's forthcoming season, details of which were announced yesterday, will be a team of actors reading the King James Bible cover to cover. The first reading will be on Palm Sunday, 17 April, and the performances will take 69 hours spread across eight days. The season also includes productions of Much Ado about Nothing, All's Well that Ends Well and Marlowe's Doctor Faustus. A staging of Hamlet will open at the Globe on 23 April, Shakespeare's birthday, directed by Dromgoole.

The God of Soho, however, is likely to raise the most eyebrows. "It is primarily a love story," concluded Hannan.