It’s extremely difficult to put into words exactly how this morning’s news from the Globe has made me feel. Shocked, baffled, but most of all angry. Incandescently so.
As you may have gathered from my recent open letter to Emma Rice, this summer has been one of the best I’ve ever had – and I hold her vision (& the Globe’s programming) directly responsible for this. I was lucky enough to go to every single production in the Wonder season (though we all know what happened during Shrew) and each & every one just seemed to capture the audience’s imagination. Obviously they weren’t all perfect; Macbeth didn’t quite hit the heights of Dream, Imogen & 946, however it had its moments and I am glad that I saw it.
In case you missed it, the following statement has been issued:
What this waffle essentially boils down to is: ‘Thanks for the massive income from this summer, but we’d rather keep the white, upper-class, middle-aged men happy and not try anything remotely challenging in the future’. Not only is this an incredibly rude thing to do, but it’s also extremely short-sighted. Rice is being judged on the methods she has used in a single season, rather than being given a fair crack of the whip – Mark Rylance served from 1995 until Dominic Dromgoole took over in 2006, followed by Rice in 2016. The next artistic director is due to take over for the 2018 summer season.
The main bone of contention seems to be the use of sound & lighting technology. To me it seems laughable that the board are unwilling to use innovations, when surely Shakespeare himself would have taken advantage of anything at his disposal? He remains one of the most lauded creative geniuses the world has ever known – and in my opinion, as far as artistic vision goes, Emma Rice is his natural successor.
She has a bold & imaginative approach to storytelling, the like of which I’ve never experienced before. In going to see her productions at the Globe this summer, I think I came closest to the sensations the Elizabethans would have felt in going to see a Shakespeare play in his own time. They were using technology that was of their time, why shouldn’t we take advantage of the advances that we as a species have made over the past 400 years?
The section that really grates on me is this one: “…a predominant use of contemporary sound and lighting technology will not enable us to optimise further experimentation in our unique theatre spaces and the playing conditions which they offer.” The theatre has been there for over 20 years now – what other ‘authentic’ sound & lighting approaches are actually left to experiment with? It surely now makes more sense to experiment with how contemporary technology can fit into the Globe and ameliorate the experiences of all involved.
Not only has Rice given me one of the best theatrical experiences ever, but she’s also become a massive inspiration to me personally. The fact that she’s risen so far & achieved so much in an environment that still seems more geared towards men’s success is testament to her talent, and shows that bravery & risk-taking is necessary if you want to create something truly special.
Her 50:50 gender balance policy has been an overwhelming success, as far as I’m concerned – and long overdue. The decision to bring in ‘Helenus’ was absolutely ingenious, and definitely part of what gave her Dream that extra spark. And the Kneehigh influence & influx was definitely a breath of fresh air. I’m so happy to have been introduced to this wonderful company, particularly via 946 (which I’m now following around the country on its tour), and now can’t imagine my theatre life without them in it.
But I don’t want to end on a bitter note. The very first announcement I saw from the Globe today filled me with anticipation for the summer to come: the Summer of Love. From start to finish it sounds absolutely delightful: Romeo & Juliet, Twelfth Night, Much Ado About Nothing & King Lear, plus the fantastic Nell Gwynn, Kneehigh’s Tristan & Yseult and new play Boudica. There is nothing to complain about there!
And after that there will be a final winter season to look forward to before the first season with someone new at the helm. Lots of excitement to focus on, that’s for sure. And I feel it’s quite apt to finish with a quote used in 946…
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”