Globe 2019: “This sceptred isle”

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Image source: Shakespeare’s Globe

For me, Michelle Terry’s first pair of seasons at the Globe have been a bit hit and miss, but overall pretty successful – and far more alluring than I initially anticipated. There are a few things left in the winter season, but they are rather intriguing prospects: Edward II, Richard II and After Edward. In general terms, however, these first sets of productions haven’t had particularly rapturous responses elsewhere; it’s not been a complete downer by any means, but there are still some people who need convincing about certain aspects. I don’t think I’ll ever be completely happy about the lack of amplification, but I’m fighting an unwinnable battle there.

The new outdoor season is fast approaching – what do we have on offer this time?

henry iv 1
Image source: Shakespeare’s Globe

There will be midnight matinées again: Audience Choice – The Comedy of Errors/Pericles/Twelfth Night (21 June), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (20 July), As You Like It (6 September). Excitingly, there will be the chance to go to ‘Trilogy Days’, where all three Henry plays will be performed on the same day – an exhausting prospect (especially for actors and groundlings!), but an incredible way of seeing the story through. The Merry Wives of Windsor will be this year’s cinema screening, with the live broadcast taking place on Thursday 20 June.

Outside of the regular productions, there will of course be more Read Not Dead (on a Robin Hood theme), as well as Playing Shakespeare, Shakespeare’s Telling Tales, and Scenes, Sonnets & Songs (including the Shakespeare Walks). Refugee Week returns, and there are a couple of other ‘festivals’ in the form of Poland is Hamlet and Women & Power. Currently there’s no details about the latter, but the former will help to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Stanisław Wyspiański – a renowned Polish playwright, director and painter. Song of the Goat Theatre Company will also be bringing their Songs of Lear for a limited time.

henry iv 2
Image source: Shakespeare’s Globe

Personally speaking, this is a slightly better selection compared to last year. I’m slowly, agonisingly, ticking off all of the Shakespeare plays – so at least this time I can add both Henry IVs to my list! I had been rather hoping for Henry VI, as I’m more interested in that period of history and they’re so rarely done, but I can but keep my fingers crossed they crop up in the winter season, perhaps… Whilst I’m not unhappy about seeing Henry V, I have seen three good productions of it already, so a different one would’ve been more suitable – however, if I can get to a trilogy day it might feel more worthwhile.

I’m pleased to see the return of last season’s As You Like It; stood in the yard on a glorious spring day gave me a new perspective on the play, as I’d previously been a bit on the fence about it. Hopefully it will be worked on a little bit, and become maybe a little more focused, but last time it was still enough to warrant a 4* review from me:

“This is exactly the kind of show that was needed to help kickstart the new season at the recently rebranded Globe; bright & joyful, and a real celebration of Shakespeare’s work (without being overly reverential). It’s a definite crowd-pleaser, and an ideal way to spend a sunny afternoon or light summer’s evening.”

I loved the RSC’s recent production of The Merry Wives of Windsor, as well as Merely Theatre’s workshop version a couple of years ago, so this new one has a lot to live up to! That it will be directed by Nicole Charles & Elle While means it is off to a good start, at least.

bartholomew fair
Image source: Shakespeare’s Globe

The Alchemist is one of my favourite plays of all time, so it’s great that another of Ben Jonson’s plays will get an airing this summer. I’ve no idea what exactly Bartholomew Fair will entail, but I’m excited to see how it fares in the lovely Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, especially as it’s directed by Blanche McIntyre (she was responsible for my favourite Shakespeare production of last year, The Winter’s Tale); the case of The Merry Wives of Windsor will also be taking this one on, so I’m hopeful for an hysterically funny company!

The Globe Ensemble is making a return for the summer, with a new line-up. For me, this troupe had mixed results last year; their democratic approach is laudable, but it ended up with a pair of productions that had varying amounts of focus and not a particularly inventive use of the performance space. Fingers crossed that a bit more consideration of this side of things goes into their Henriad.

scenes, sonnets & songs
Image source: Shakespeare’s Globe

As I said a few months ago, the touring productions (the trio of then-titled ‘Voter’s Choice’ plays) were the weakest part of the 2018 season – but they’re back for 2019, and I’m prepared to give them another chance! Somewhat annoyingly, they’re bringing back Twelfth Night alongside The Comedy of Errors (I’d actually hoped for a full-blown version of this one) and Pericles. Now the dust has settled, I may chance it on an Audience Choice night and risk seeing Twelfth Night; it’s my instinct that I’d enjoy these productions more when the stakes are higher and the energy is perhaps a bit more frantic, so we’ll see. I’ll definitely give the new two productions a go, anyway.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a popular classic, but… Two major productions of this play have already been announced for 2019: The Bridge Theatre is doing another immersive production (following on from Julius Caesar last year) and Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre is also hosting a version of the Dream. I understand that the “sceptred isle” thread that loosely ties this season together limits the choices somewhat, but you can’t blame me for rolling my eyes a little.

women & power
Image source: Shakespeare’s Globe

After the overwhelming success of Emilia last year (and I really enjoyed Eyam), I’m rather sad that there doesn’t currently appear to be any new writing on offer this season. Yes, Emilia has landed its West End transfer (I have a couple of trips confirmed and several more in the planning stages), which is incredible, but I’m sure Michelle Terry insisted the theatre’s commitment to new work would continue. I won’t write it off yet, as it’s clear some things are still being thought through and remain unannounced, but if this remains the case then I will be really disappointed.

On the whole, though, I’m definitely feeling a lot more satisfied than last time. I’m resolved to make it to more of the non-play events, particularly the Women & Power programme and Read Not Dead, and I’ll be fascinated to see what has been worked on since last summer. Will I end up having another unexpected favourite?

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