OK, you know I don’t usually use blog space for news articles. I use my weekly podcast for that. But sometimes…
There’s a new sheriff in Globe-town, and, well, some people are not happy.
First a little history: Back in 1970, American director Sam Wanamaker formed a group raise funds for the recreation of the Globe Theatre as close as possible to its original location in London. He didn’t live to see it, but it was built and Shakespeare’s Globe opened nearly 20 years ago. The thought was by recreating the theater Shakespeare’s plays were performed in, we might better understand what the plays looked and sounded like.
And for the last 20 years, plays have been performed there with an eye to historical accuracy (daylight, open-air performances with groundlings standing for the performances; Elizabethan-ish costuming; little in stage dressing). But not all-holy reverence, mind you. If you’re looking for stuffy, museum-Shakespeare, look elsewhere.
Mark Rylance was the first Artistic Director, followed by Dominic Dromgoole, each running with more-or-less a decade-long tenure. And now there’s a new AD, Emma Rice, whose first production, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is dropping jaws, raising eyebrows, and causing a bit of heartburn.
Some have contended that her additions of mics, lighting, amplified music, and a neon sign, are akin to putting an electric pickup on a Stradivarius. Reviews have ranged from the Telegraph’s four-of-five star rave, which called it transfixing (though purists may want to head for the hills), and the Financial Times which gave it three of five stars but called it “effervescent” to the Wall Street Journal’s review, which called it tacky, and the even more scathing Huffington Post review.
After such reviews, I find it interesting that Emma Rice, the new Artistic Director at the Globe, gave an interview saying that most fans of Shakespeare are faking it and that seeing Shakespeare is often like learning a new language.
Look, you know me. I cannot stand museum-Shakespeare, so pristine and hermetically sealed that neither the play nor its audience can breath, and you know I’m no Bardolator. [you can feel the “but” coming, can’t you?] But I do like the idea of one place you can go to get a feel, a vibe, of what it was like. If the theater was built with period acoustic in mind, then use those acoustics; if the theater was built for natural lighting, then use natural lighting. Costuming and set dressing, I think, are fair game (unless you’re talking some kind of holograms and such…something simply inconceivable in the period).
Rice says, “All the theatre I have ever made has always been deeply accessible because, if you can’t get the language, it’s a lonely experience and theatre should never be lonely.” Totally agree. She also says, “I think it’s like learning a language.” Maybe, only it isn’t, not for English-speakers. This IS YOUR language.
I want accessible Shakespeare. But I also want a place to go to see re-created Shakespeare. I’m beginning to think that maybe the two are mutually exclusive. Or is my concept of “re-created Shakespeare” too narrow? Or Emma Rice’s definition of “accessible” just different than mine?