A rousing haka war cry by Maori actors kicked off a marathon programme of 37 Shakespeare plays in 37 languages on Monday as a cultural curtainraiser for the 2012 London Olympics.
The Ngakau Toa theatre company, who launch the festival on Monday evening with their performance of "Troilus and Cressida", shook London's Globe Theatre with the rhythmic stamping and cries made famous by New Zealand's rugby team.
The actors' tattooed thighs were an unusual sight at the Globe Theatre, a replica of the 16th century playhouse on the south bank of the River Thames that presented many of of Shakespeare's plays during his own lifetime.
Other highlights of the Globe to Globe festival will include a South Sudanese version of "Cymbeline", a performance of "The Comedy of Errors" by Afghan actors, and "Richard III" by the National Theatre of China.
Deaf actors will also present "Love's Labours Lost" in British Sign Language.
The festival runs until June 9 as part of cultural celebrations leading up to the Olympics, which open on July 27.
"It's probably one of the most ambitious festivals of all time," festival director Tom Bird told AFP, adding that a key aim was to attract London's many linguistic communities to the theatre.
"The other thing is to show that Shakespeare isn't really an English poet," he said. "He's become a part of world culture."
Bird added that the playwright -- whose 448th birthday falls on Monday -- retains a universal appeal because "he gets what it means to be human better than anyone else".
"He takes you to the darkest times and then to the lightest times in two minutes," he said.
Rawiri Paratene, director of "Troilus and Cressida", said he was "excited and frightened" about opening the festival in Maori.
He said the play translated well because "the classical Maori language is very poetic, very bawdy, very prosaic -- it's got all the different forms of the language that Shakespeare uses."
Nadia Nadarajah, an actor in the sign language version of "Love's Labours Lost", explained that the Deafinitely Theatre company had simplified Shakespeare's archaic language to write their script.
"It's the language that we use every day," she told AFP in sign language through an interpreter.
"A big challenge for me is using the space eloquently," she added. "Actors that use speech have to project their voice, while I have to project my hands if I want to reach everybody that's watching it."