The British High Commission celebrated Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday at the Empire Theatre, the Empire Hotel and Country Club on Wednesday 27 April 2016. The Queen’s Birthday Party reception also commemorated the 400th anniversary of the death of the British playwright, William Shakespeare, through ‘Shakespeare Lives’ – a major global programme for 2016, created by British Council and the GREAT Britain campaign, celebrating Shakespeare’s works and his influence on culture, education and society.
The Guests of Honour were Yang Berhormat Pehin Datu Lailaraja Major General (R) Dato Paduka Seri Haji Awang Halbi bin Haji Mohd Yussof, Minister of Culture Youth and Sports and Yang Mulia Datin Hajah Kalshom binti Haji Suhaili. In his speech, High Commissioner H.E. David Campbell welcomed guests on the special occasion of Her Majesty The Queen’s 90th birthday. He highlighted particular strengths in the relationship between Brunei and the UK over the last year. He described why Shakespeare remains such a source of inspiration for the world, with his plays regularly studied and performed in Brunei Darussalam.
Guests enjoyed a series of short Shakespeare performances by Florence Holmes, who played Titania from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Eden Chiam, who played Juliet from Romeo and Juliet and Mahmud Baharudin, who played Jaques from As You Like It reciting ‘All The World’s A Stage’ in English and Malay.
As a gift for the Guest of Honour, the High Commissioner presented presented YB Pehin with a copy of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare and YM Datin with a fine bone china commemorative plate hand manufactured in Staffordshire, England. The plate was commissioned by Buckingham Palace to celebrate the 90th birthday of Her Majesty The Queen and has a coat of arms painted specially for the occasion.
In the foyer of the Theatre, there was a gallery of pictures over the years of Her Majesty the Queen and His Majesty the Sultan, both in Brunei and in the United Kingdom, celebrating and reflecting the strong relationship between Brunei and the UK.
As guests entered the theatre, a video series of The Guardian’s Shakespeare Solos – some of Shakespeare’s greatest speeches performed by British actors Adrian Lester, David Morrissey and Eileen Atkins, to name a few – were playing alongside a mini display of Shakespeare quotes and Shakespeare Lives posters.
The Theatre itself was decorated with Union Jack flags and bunting and Shakespeare Lives banners, sponsored by CfBT featuring Shakespeare images from the UK as well as English Literature and Drama students in Brunei performing Shakespeare. A compilation of videos created by the British Council – a series of contemporary re-imaginings of Shakespeare’s work (one of which was filmed in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), the FOBISIA Shakespeare Drama Conference held recently at Jerudong International School, footage of Stratford-upon-Avon – the home of Shakespeare – and the ‘Illuminating Shakespeare’ lightshow in that town were playing on three big screens in the Theatre.