Almost a year ago to the day, I wrote an open letter to the wonderful Emma Rice to thank her for the most perfect introduction to the Globe: last summer’s Wonder Season. Buoyed by what I’d seen and experienced, I anticipated many more glorious summers spent all but living at that amazing theatre, daydreaming about which plays would be next. And then less than a week later came the news that she would only spend one more year in charge, as her style (which she is well known for) had been found to be incompatible with what the board seemed to want from an artistic director.
From that moment on, I knew I had to spend nearly the entire season at the Globe in order to drink in every drop of theatre magic that I was sure would be proffered. So as soon as tickets went on sale I had a bit of a mass booking session, ensuring I had at least one ticket for each production – and eventually amassing 10 for my favourite ever Shakespeare play (Twelfth Night) before I’d even seen it… After the scramble for last-minute Dream tickets in 2016 I knew it was best to be prepared! In all, I went to 43 Summer of Love shows – and I reviewed all but Romeo & Juliet for BroadwayWorld UK (excepting Nell Gwynn, which didn’t have an official press night). Excitingly, I got quoted on two posters: Boudica and Twelfth Night (if anyone wants to gift me a copy of them, you know where I am)!
Whilst I’m obviously a vocal fan of Emma Rice and her collaborators, that didn’t stop me from being incredibly nervous as I waited in line for the very first show of the season – I’d staked an awful lot on these six months and really didn’t want to be disappointed. But when Romeo and Juliet almost quite literally exploded onto the stage, I knew it was all going to be fine! And from then I waited in anticipation (rather than apprehension) for each production that followed.
Unlike many critics, who must have felt that they now had licence to go on and on about the sound and lights in pretty much every review (funnily enough, these things didn’t seem to matter much to them last year) – most of which ended up reading like news articles, rather than an analysis of the performance they’d just seen.
This, as well as my passion for the place and productions, spurred me on and I’ve ended up with quite a collection of features and reviews from the season – I was particularly chuffed to include some interviews this time, finding out more about choreography (Etta Murfitt), composing (James Maloney) and writing (Tristan Bernays). Not only that, but I did my first and only Globe Challenge week! It definitely came at the right time, as I obviously managed to keep seeing these brilliant shows (mostly standing, and mostly Much Ado) and also find out more about the plays themselves, as well as the history behind their settings. A joyful and fascinating experience.
And then, seemingly in no time at all, we reached the last day. All very strange, all too quick – and not something I’ll be getting over in a hurry. It would’ve been bad enough just for the season to end, as it’s been an absolute belter, but knowing that we’ll never get to see Emma Rice’s genius in that space again (and who knows if she’ll take on anymore Shakespeare in the future?) is desperately sad. I had been doing surprisingly well, but this thought suddenly popped into my head halfway through the Much Ado jig and I lost it. And then I had to get through the speeches! This woman has almost single-handedly changed the way I think about theatre and is an all-round inspiration.
The unveiling of Michelle Terry as her successor at first made me quite hopeful, though now I’m slightly more cautious about the whole thing. I’m pleased that the board went with a woman, and there’s no doubt that she has a great knowledge of Shakespeare, but it’s not going to stop me from worrying. For one thing, I wonder how much control she’ll actually have (at least to begin with) and whether she’ll end up being treated as a puppet – I’m also quite disappointed that she’s ruled out ever trying her hand at directing while she’s in charge. I mean, she may end up changing her mind, but then why completely rule it out in the first place? I’m curious to see how an artistic vision is developed without directing a show (for me, this definitively sets out your stall from the off), and getting cast each season could be seen as a bit self-indulgent. I’m also a little peeved that the media are suggesting she’ll be bringing in 50:50 gender casting, and more diverse companies, when this is something Emma Rice has done from day one.
I will be going back to the Globe next year, as I’m not one of those people who feels comfortable judging something without experiencing it (unlike much of the anti-Emma Rice brigade). I am excited about the piece of new writing that’s been commissioned, and it will be nice to see some old-fashioned Shakespeare – though the novelty could wear off rather quickly. My plan is to get a yard ticket for each production and just see how it goes. I may end up loving it (I’m stubborn, but not to the point of denying myself good theatre), though with sound, lighting, and risk-taking innovation gone it can never be the same kind of love.
But I want to end on a positive note, and thank Emma once again for two ecstatically brilliant years in that space. There’s obviously the indoor winter season coming up, which I’ll be making the most of, however the Globe is where my heart lies – and it’s all thanks to her.
I can’t wait for the birth of Wise Children next year (as well as following the divinity that is The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk around the country for a bit), so I know there is lots to look forward to; that will keep me going through my sadness. The memories I’ve made will be there forever, and the little community I’ve felt a part of will still exist – just in a more nomadic form from now on. Thank you, Emma Rice. Thank you, and good luck. ❤