Something for all the family: watch Karagöz and Hacivat shadow puppetry online

Originating from the Ottoman era, Karagöz and Hacivat are among Turkey’s most famous and popular theatre characters, a perfect foil for each other as they seek to solve everyday problems.

Karagöz represents the illiterate, but straightforward general public, while Hacivat is from the educated classes, always speaking in a posh form of Ottoman Turkish to reflect his higher status.

The interaction between lovable rascal Karagöz and the intelligent, smooth-talking Hacivat is as hilarious as it is informative, with the pair reflecting the diverse and often competing natures we all possess.

The impulsive Karagöz often comes up with hare-brained schemes to get rich quick that inevitably end up in failure. Yet he constantly manages to win over the public with is wit. Hacivat, meanwhile, may lose out in the popularity stakes due to his snooty behaviour, but shows his value to society by applying his education in a smart way to calm matters down and resolve problems.

Set against a white backdrop, this traditional shadow puppet show is frequently performed in all sorts of settings in Turkey, from schools to shopping malls, in coffeehouses and in public squares. It is also a regular feature on the Yunus Emre Institute’s activity calendar.

Due to the lockdown, however, the Karagöz and Hacivat show is transferring from the Institute’s West End premises to online. It will be performed by British Turkish actress Ada Burke, who trained in shadow puppetry in Bursa.

Two performances of Karagöz and Hacivat are scheduled to take place in April. The one in English will be performed on Sunday afternoon, 19 April, while the Turkish performance will take place on ’23 Nisan’, Thursday, 23 April, in celebration of National Sovereignty and Children’s Day in Turkey and the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus.

Suitable for children aged 5 and above, families can watch from the comfort of their homes. They have to register online for the show they wish to watch and also download the Zoom app, over which the show will be broadcast.

Viewers are asked to make a minimum donation of £2 to support artists and educational to work and earn during the lockdown period.


Title: Shadow Play: Karagöz & Hacivat

Dates & Times:

  • Sunday 19 April 2020  (English performance), 1pm start
  • Thursday 23 April, 2020  (Turkish performance), 4pm start

Duration: 35mins

Admission & information: prior registration via Eventbrite is needed. A minimum £2 donation is kindly requested. Performance to be transmitted via Zoom – must register and download the app in advance. More details are on the booking form.



Main image, top, of a performance of Karagöz & Hacivat  by Kathy Burke at a British school in 2019, sponsored by the Yunus Emre Institute London. Photo © YEI 2019