Globe 2018: “Who’s there?”

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Image source: Shakespeare’s Globe

Ever since Emma Rice’s shocking and premature resignation prior to her final two seasons at Shakespeare’s Globe, there has been suspense and anticipation over what will happen next. Michelle Terry was named as Rice’s successor in July, and this morning announced an extensive inaugural summer season. The Globe also teased its new branding, with both logo and website getting a revamp (though the new new website launches later this year).

So what are we getting?

There will be midnight matinées, as per usual – As You Like It (15 June), The Winter’s Tale (13 July), Othello (14 September) – Read Not Dead will continue, and there are due to be several themed festivals throughout the course of the year.

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Image source: Shakespeare’s Globe

At the moment I’m a little bit on the fence about this line-up, overall. Whilst I absolutely didn’t expect there to be masses of lesser known Shakespeares included, given Terry’s reputation as a Shakespearean I felt like a history play would be a dead cert. I’ve not yet seen one performed at the Globe (I’m certain Rice would have programmed one had her tenure not been cut short), so this is a huge disappointment. What’s also gutting is the amount of repetition we’ll now be getting as far as the other plays are concerned.

Another Hamlet? The RSC are set to tour their 2016 production (starring Paapa Essiedu), last year saw acclaimed performances from Andrew Scott and Tom Hiddleston (as well as the not-so-good Brandreth family version), and Benedict Cumberbatch had a crack at it in 2015. As You Like It would also not have been one of my first choices, as it was at the National in 2016, a resident group of students put it on at the Globe last February – and a new production is set to grace the Regent’s Park Open Air stage this summer (with music from Charlie Fink).

The RSC’s 2014 Love’s Labour’s Lost also made an appearance at the Theatre Royal Haymarket during the 2016-17 festive season, and the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company produced a version of The Winter’s Tale in 2015-16 (Justin Audibert is bringing a version aimed at younger audiences to the Dorfman this year). A beautiful production of Othello formed part of Wonder Noir last year, and The Taming of the Shrew and The Merchant of Venice were both performed during the Wonder Season (the latter a short run at the end of an international tour).

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Image source: Shakespeare’s Globe

What is personally the most galling is the programming of Twelfth Night. Emma Rice’s production was my favourite show of 2017, bringing me so much joy & escapism; it almost feels like they’re trying to brush it under the carpet by putting it on again so soon. I did promise to go to each play once, but I might have to leave this one. We shall see!

Though I’m still not quite sure whether I’ll be able to properly make this decision in advance or not… Twelfth Night is being toured with The Merchant of Venice and The Taming of the Shrew, starting at the Globe. Something has been mentioned about the audience choosing which of these plays will be performed, but there an accompanying explanation hasn’t really been forthcoming. From what’s available on the website, it seems that the three plays start their runs a few days apart – presumably to give them each a chance to be performed before the full run sees the audience choosing? It’s an intriguing (though potentially chaotic) idea which I’d like to hear a bit more about.

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Image source: Shakespeare’s Globe

What I am rather pleased about is the inclusion of The Two Noble Kinsmen, as I missed that at the RSC in recent years, and the several new pieces of work. One had already been announced (Emilia), and Eyam sounds particularly interesting. On 2 September there will be a ‘Sonnet Sunday‘, where all of Shakespeare’s sonnets can be heard – as only a very select few are widely known I think it’s a great idea to provide a platform for sonnets 1-154 to be performed. Other sonnet-based events are due to take place as well as this.

The festivals have great potential too: Shakespeare & CensorshipRefugee Week and Shakespeare & Race. The Globe is also an educational centre, so these are ideal ways of allowing people to learn more about the contexts of the season’s plays – and also how they can relate to the present day. I have a feeling that I may be spending more of my time at these diverse events than at the plays, actually! The selection of Read Not Dead plays looks great (Sir Thomas More is particularly catching my eye), so I’ll definitely continue to attend these – they make for very entertaining afternoons, I highly recommend you try one this year.

The Globe Ensemble is a nice idea; they will take on Hamlet and As You Like It in rep in order to accentuate any links that they feel exist between the two plays. All that I’d be wary about is how this company is made up from season to season, as obviously you wouldn’t want all the same faces constantly – though, naturally, there may be some who return to the Globe more often than others. This year I’m thrilled to see Shubham Saraf (who gave one of my favourite performances of 2017) as part of this group, and hopefully a few more familiar faces will pop up every now and then.

So there we go! I will be sad to see the lighting & sound departments go – it remains to be seen how special this “shared light” is… Given that, I doubt I’ll be at any of the midnight shows from now on, but I do hope to try shows at different times of day to see what each is like. All the best to Michelle Terry – I hope your vision is what comes through, and I wish you every success.

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