Play by Candlelight 2018/19: preview

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Image source: Shakespeare’s Globe

Only a handful of this year’s summer season plays have made their way onto the Globe stage so far, but already Michelle Terry is looking indoors to her first winter season as artistic director.

“Join us this winter as we explore stories from the past, the ghosts of then, and the storytellers from yesteryear, and simultaneously, collectively, create the ghosts of ‘tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow’.”

For those of us who wondered where the history plays were in the summer schedule, there is a little bit of satisfaction to be had this time round – and fans of Shakespeare’s contemporaries are also given a little bit of a treat by way of full productions and Read Not Dead performances. There will also be some intriguing new pieces of writing that link into the themes being explored throughout the season, as well as some special seasonal events and plenty of family activities.

On Sunday 11 November, there are plans to mark 100 years since the end of the First World War with a day of various events – and on 22 & 23 December the Globe itself will host a Winter Wassail.

Macbeth

I know what you’re thinking: “not another Macbeth!” And trust me, I’m thinking it too. I’ve seen two productions of this play already this year, and have another two definitely lined up (and I could even end up going to York’s pop-up Rose Theatre too) – plus it featured in Emma Rice’s first summer season, just two years ago. Political climates do, of course, make it an apt play to produce, but a little imagination wouldn’t go amiss. It forms part of the Ambitious Fiends festival within the winter season, grouped with Doctor Faustus, Dark Night of the Soul and Ralegh: The Treason Trial – all looking at power and corruption in its various forms.

I am quite pleased to see Doctor Faustus featuring, as I’ve seen two productions in recent years, neither of which really gave me a proper insight into the work, so I’m hoping in the traditional setting I might finally get a chance to appreciate Marlowe’s poetry properly. These two productions will be performed by ‘The Ensemble’ (presumably an equivalent to the Globe Ensemble of the summer months); Robert Hastie features in Macbeth, and Paulette Randall will be included in Doctor Faustus.

Ralegh

On 17 November 1603, Sir Walter Ralegh (I’ve always written it ‘Raleigh’, but there we go) was put on trial for treason in Winchester Great Hall – a hero to Elizabeth I, he fared less well under the rule of James I. This play is a verbatim account of what actually happened that day (compiled, edited & dramatised by Oliver Chris) that will be staged around the very day itself, and performed both in Winchester Great Hall and the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. It is also described as being “immersive” – as much as I’d love that to mean immersive in the truest, interactive sense, I’m presuming it’s more about the feeling of being immersed in that world rather than anything else. Either way, it sounds like an intriguing piece of theatre.

Dark Night of the Soul is “The Feminine Response to the Faustian Myth”, and will be composed by a female writing ensemble which will include Lily Bevan, Athena Stevens, Lisa Hammond & Rachael Spence, and Katie Hims & Amanda Wilkin. Macbeth and Doctor Faustus are a couple of historical male responses to the Faustian bargain, so it will be interesting to see what this set of present day female writers present as their own interpretations & responses.

Edward II

On the Shoulders of Ghosts is the next festival in the season, looking at the fine line between the personal and the political through Edward II, Richard II and After Edward.

I’ve seen two very different productions of Marlowe’s Edward II: Scena Mundi’s at St Bartholomew the Great and Lazarus Theatre‘s at Tristan Bates Theatre. Whilst it will be nice to see it in another different way, and by candelight, I can’t help but wish for a different Marlowe play to cross my path as I’m currently stuck on these two and The Massacre At Paris (one of the first things I saw after I moved to London in 2014). Obviously it’s here as it fits thematically (& chronologically) with Richard II, but…

I will be glad to see another Richard II, however. I was lucky enough to see the RSC’s production (starring David Tennant) a couple of years ago, after missing out on Scena Mundi’s version (which they too teamed with Edward II) – so it will be nice to finally see it by candelight and in the intimate surroundings of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. It’s a rather underrated play, I think, so it’s a good idea to give it another airing.

Richard II

It’s hard to know what to make of After Edward at this stage, but with Edward II meeting the likes of Gertrude Stein, Harvey Milk and Quentin Crisp… You know it’s going to be anything but dull! Throw in Margaret Thatcher with all that, and it’s an incredibly intriguing prospect. This piece, written by Tom Stuart, is the first in a series of modern responses to Edward II – more will be announced later this year.

Elsewhere, there will be family events in the half term holidays focusing around Macbeth and Henry V, a one-day symposium entitled Perdition Catch My Soul: Shakespeare, Hell and Damnation (a temporary exhibition on this subject will also be set up in the museum), Playing Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet is the featured play this time) and the regular tours of both theatres continue as normal. There are also three Read Not Dead performances scheduled, two in the Sam Wanamaker and the other at Gray’s Inn – the chosen pieces continue on the theme of censorship.

After Edward

Once again, I think I’m most looking forward to the new pieces of writing, but it will be interesting to see how the whole season pans out – and I look forward to hearing more about The Ensemble as we get nearer to autumn.


Play by Candlelight 2018/19 runs from 7 November 2018-21 April 2019. Public booking opens on Monday 16 July at 10am – tickets will be available online or from the box office.

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