Globe 2020: “This wooden O”

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I really enjoyed the last summer season overall (despite now being almost completely sworn off returning to the groundling life – people are just too rude & inconsiderate for me to countenance it as a viable option), and the 2019/20 winter season has just gone above and beyond so far. The Wars of the Roses histories have really set the tone, and I’m definitely excited about the creative decisions for The Taming of the Shrew. Critically speaking, things do still feel a little up in the air, but the Michelle Terry way is at least starting to really take shape.

The new spring/summer season will be upon us before we know it… But what is on offer?

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There will be midnight matinées again: Twelfth Night (12 June), Much Ado About Nothing (14 August), Globe On Tour: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (18 September). No news of another cinema screening so far, which is a bit of a shame. There are, however, several assisted performances across the run of each show; the full productions will each have relaxed, captioned, audio described & BSL performances, and each tour production will have a captioned performance (plus audio described performances of The TempestA Midsummer Night’s Dream).

Outside of the regular productions, there will of course be more Read Not Dead (focusing on British actor-dramatist Nathan Field), as well as Playing Shakespeare (this year is Macbeth), Shakespeare’s Telling Tales, and the Shakespeare Walks. Refugee Week returns once more, as does Shakespeare & Race; Globe 4 Globe will tackle the climate crisis, looking for links with Shakespeare’s works. The Comedy Store Players will also make a welcome return to the Globe stage.

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It’s like one step forward and two steps back…

Having some histories back at Shakespeare’s Globe (beginning in the winter 2018/19 season and continuing through 2019/20) has been an absolute pleasure, and I was rather hoping – perhaps expecting – them to be fully concluded by programming Henry VIII somewhere in this summer season. Nothing has yet been announced for the Sam Wanamaker (there’s usually one late summer piece in there), so I’ll continue to hope that this will be a late inclusion, though with little confidence.

Following last year’s introspective programme, focusing on “this sceptred isle”, it might’ve been a good time to look outwards and give the season a European flavour; I’ll admit that this is partly linked to my needing to tick The Two Gentlemen of Verona off my list as well as the final Henry, but it would arguably make for a more compelling schedule than the one we’ve been offered.

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Half of the programme is a carbon copy of Emma Rice’s final season Shakespeare picks. Whilst the casting of Alfred Enoch as Romeo is a great grab from the Globe, do we really need another production of this play just yet? Even “if the lives of these young lovers could have been saved”. Versions at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre and the National have previously been announced (to run from June and August, respectively), now all we need is for the Bridge Theatre to decide to fill their Shakespeare gap with this one and we’ll be longing for the am-dram version in Hot Fuzz to cheer us all up…

Twelfth Night, as you all know by now, is my favourite Shakespeare. It’ll take a lot to come and see it at the Globe after Emma Rice’s superlative version from 2017, but I’m glad to see that it’s Sean Holmes directing the Globe Ensemble – his production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was the closest to a bridge between the two artistic directorships I’ve seen, so I’m hoping for more of the same here. Much Ado About Nothing, equally, was at its best under the eye of Matthew Dunster in 2017, so there are big shoes to fill all round – though if anyone can do it, Eleanor Rhode can.

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I’m still not massively sold on Antony & Cleopatra, but I desperately need to get Ralph Fiennes’ Rigsby Antony out of my mind so I am definitely going to give this a go… Casting the brilliant Nadia Nadarajah as Cleopatra ups the intrigue, and I doubt anyone’s betting against Michelle Terry taking on the other titular role.

By far the most intriguing prospect in this bland season is Ovid’s Metamorphoses. I don’t know a great deal about the works, having only seen Venus & Adonis (from the Shakespeare poem) previously – as both a puppet production and as part of Scena Mundi’s FORUM. Looking through the list of books contained in this work has confirmed that it’s right up my street; I’ve always had a love for mythology (though I prefer the Greek names to the repurposed Roman ones – what a snob) so I’m really excited to see these stories come to life on the Globe stage. It’ll be interesting to see how this turns out, as it seems to be the closest thing to some new writing that we’re going to get this season, with new resident writers Sami Ibrahim, Laura Lomas & Sabrina Mahfouz taking on the task.

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Globe On Tour is back again – including Audience Choice. I didn’t get to see any of last year’s productions as the timing of their Globe shows were terrible for me, though my parents took my recommendation of The Comedy of Errors and really enjoyed that when it reached them over in Somerset. I have to say I’m slightly disappointed in the choice of three plays here… I know with touring you do need to go with what is likely to sell, so it maybe has to be a bit more predictable than the rest, but A Midsummer Night’s Dream again? I still really don’t get The Tempest either, and I’m beginning to wonder if the Globe has shares in As You Like It; a glorious full production featured in Michelle Terry’s first season, then that ran again last year – enough now. Enough!

I like the idea of combining original practice with our modern awareness of carbon footprints and the climate emergency; the opening week of Romeo & Juliet will be matinées only, starting performances at 2pm (coinciding with Earth Day). The team will be charting the production’s “carbon journey” throughout the entire run. I presume this information will then be shared with the public – I’d definitely be interested in finding out the environmental cost of putting on the average show at the Globe.

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On the whole… I’m not going to lie, it’s a big disappointment at this stage. Given that Shakespeare wrote well over 30 plays, it’s not a great look to repeat works that were staged only three years ago at the same venue, and to go almost purely for plays that have been done to death. That’s not to say that these versions won’t be brilliant or that I won’t be trying to attend each and every one, but I just feel that we Shakespeare fanatics deserve more.


The summer season at Shakespeare’s Globe runs from 14 April – 8 October 2020. Tickets will be available online or from the box office – public booking opens 19 February 2020.

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