Thanks for the Sparkly Trees, Emma Rice

The idea pulsing through Twitter that The Globe before Emma Rice was barren of creativity and innovation is deeply insulting to the diverse artists who have delivered production after production glorying in Shakespeare’s language, whilst constantly delighting and surprising audiences.

If you want true Wonder, watch a recording of The Tempest with Roger Allam, Jessie Buckley and Colin Morgan – Merlin from the TV show.

For challenge, watch The Merchant of Venice with Jonathan Pryce without weeping, or Samantha Spiro’s Shrew without joining in the subversive conspiracy.

Joy? Measure for Measure with the uproarious Dean Nolan and icy Kurt Egylawan, or Roger Allam’s Henry IVs, which will leave you with Summer is Icumen In as a brain worm and a hunger to see the plays again.

How many of those tweeting with outrage about the end of Rice’s tenure have actually been to see any of the Globe productions under her or, just as importantly, have been to any of the Globe productions under Dominic Dromgoole and Mark Rylance?

I take children, some with autism, to the theatre regularly and to Shakespeare in particular. The cadence of the language, the humour and the gore reel them in and The Globe was a favourite until the advent of Emma Rice.

Was I prejudiced against her? Well, her ludicrous interview on the Today programme had made me very nervous but we all say stupid things from time to time and I like to take as I find.

And what did I find? Well, Macbeth with two of our greatest actors Tara Fitzgerald and Ray Fearon had some great costumes and nice music but was a mess: words cut to pieces, intrusive music drowning out the few words that were left, four witches instead of three, a child for the Macbeths, a crazy sound system that left the Macbeths shouting at the tops of their voices after they had killed Duncan – I could go on.

Still I could make an argument for it — it would be a good discussion point for young teenagers who knew the play and by and large enjoy the chance to criticise. Was I bored, well yes, a bit but I was happy to give Emma Rice another try.

Then came The Taming of the Shrew, this time the words were drowned out with very loud Irish music and set before the Easter Uprising for no apparent reason. Large parts of it were unintelligible and I was bored to tears. I had gone to see Shakespeare and this was simply not Shakespeare in any recognisable form.

With deep sadness, I ditched the idea of the Dream or Imogen and instead bought tickets for the Wannamaker season where I think Emma Rice’s talents are likely to shine because they are plays she has chosen without constraint, and actually likes.

Her attitude, which I find profoundly patronising, is that Shakespeare is too hard and quite dull whereas I believe that the right production, with the right actors will make Shakespeare’s words a pleasure for everyone. Someone who does not like Shakespeare and would rather listen to The Archers should not be in charge of The Globe.

I am grateful to Emma Rice for the sparkly trees and I’ll keep those.

Otherwise, I’ll hope that whoever replaces her will build on the tradition of the great Shakespeare directors Dromgoole, Rylance, Terry Hands, Michael Boyd, Lucy Bailey, Roxana Silbert (in fact perhaps one of these last two could take over?) and trust Shakespeare to entertain and enlighten.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s