Tag Archives: Twelfth Night

No more cakes and ale: Emma Rice to leave Shakespeare’s Globe

Dream“Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?”

Shakespeare’s barb, aimed at the puritan Malvolio in Twelfth Night, seems an apposite response to the stuffed shirts at Shakespeare’s Globe. They have got rid of Emma Rice, the theatre’s first female director, for the crime of using lighting and sound effects, rather than sticking to their po-faced agenda of ‘authenticity’.

I’ve loved The Globe from its opening back in the nineties, when the equally exciting and innovative Mark Rylance launched the theatre. The fear was always that it would be a museum of Shakespeare, somewhere that tourists and bored school kids were taken while ‘doing’ our national poet. Rylance’s passion made it a thrilling venue, where you were never sure what you would see next. His experiments with authentic lighting, costumes and minimal staging felt new and radical at the time.

Dominic Dromgoole was a ‘safe pair of hands’ successor, although some of the Globe To Globe productions – inviting theatre troupes from around the world to perform the plays in their own language – were exciting, if perhaps less commercially successful. But it had been a while since I’d had such a vibrant theatrical experience as Emma Rice’s first production at The Globe, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (reviewed here).

I felt like I did the first time I fell in love with theatre. I laughed aloud, clapped till my hands hurt, hung on every word, cheered at the end. I was with a friend who had never seen Shakespeare before. She’d expected a difficult, maybe boring night out. We had a riot. This, I told her exuberantly, was why I love Shakespeare. He can take all the 21st century can throw at him, its carnival and excess and multiculturalism, and emerge all the better for it.

Well, he can. The audiences, which loved the play and packed the theatre, can too. Sadly, the Shakespeare’s Globe board can’t. It released a mealy-mouthed statement which acknowledged Rice’s enormous success – then added: “Following much deliberation and discussion, the Globe Board has concluded that from April 2018, the theatre programming should be structured around ‘shared light’ productions without designed sound and light rigging, which characterised a large body of The Globe’s work prior to Emma’s appointment.”

Confusingly, they continue: “As Emma has already so brilliantly and inventively demonstrated, the Globe remains committed to delighting audiences and engaging them in both Shakespeare’s work and the playhouse for which he wrote.” Delighting and engaging us by sacking the brilliant, inventive director who delighted and engaged us? Pull the other one.

The crazy thing about this is that Shakespeare was an innovator, an inventor of language who forged new types of drama, played in new types of theatre. Does anyone seriously think the man who wrote The Tempest would have chucked out the lighting rig, if he’d had access to one? He even wrote a speech (in Hamlet) criticising old-fashioned acting methods. If Shakespeare walked among us now, I bet you he’d be working with Emma Rice, not with the Globe’s board.

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Twelfth Night

Rainbow over Pointe du Trevignon

Rainbow over Pointe du Trevignon

The twelve days of festivities are almost over; we’ve all put on an extra layer of insulating fat, and the Lord of Misrule is about to be de-throned, with the return of business as usual on Plough Monday.

I’ve had a gloriously extended Christmas, culminating in a week visiting friends on their farm in Brittany; one of those parts of France that seems a bit darker and more ancient than sparkling Paris or the sophisticated, sun-drenched south. It was a great place to spend the turning of the year. We played with the children, fed the chickens, split logs for the wood burner, tramped long and muddy walks through the woods and meadows beside the swollen river Aven.

We ate our way through stacks of fresh farm produce, from eggs to turkeys, culminating in an enormous feast on New Year’s Eve, with the house a joyful cacophony of French and English voices as the neighbours joined us for a riotous party. Richly-spiced roast lamb, washed down with excellent wine, was on the menu. So were English party games like Squeak Piggy Squeak, pass the orange and the spoon race. Let’s just say the neighbours were good sports, if somewhat

New Year's Eve dinner

New Year’s Eve dinner

baffled by the oddities of the English. We all joined in a grand conga around the farmyard at midnight, after an increasingly competitive Gangnam Style dance-off.

On New Year’s Day itself, we gazed at the sunshine like people emerging from long captivity, and took our kites to the beach at Pointe du Trevignon, where I narrowly avoided decapitating strangers with my brand new stunt kite. It was windy, is all I’m saying.

A day later, we packed up the car and waved goodbye. One final treat – we’d booked a night in a tiny hotel in St Malo before getting the ferry home. Surprisingly, we discovered it was not just a bar downstairs, but a micro-brewery, so we enjoyed some Le Port Malo beer before exploring the town with dinner in mind.

We found room for oysters, moules frites and crepes, our appetites whetted by a brisk walk around the ramparts of this lovely old town. The views across the sea, with waves crashing against the walls, were spectacular, even in the dark. In

St Malo by night

St Malo by night

the pre-dawn, dark morning, we watched the light-spangled Pont Aven ferry dock, from the same city walls, then  squeezed in a delicious breakfast of hot chocolate, yoghurt, compote and croissants before boarding for the trip home to Portsmouth.

I’m dwelling on the food, as well as the company and the fun, because I like the atavistic feeling of feasting in mid-winter; the sense of storing up good things to get us through the long, dark months ahead. I’m storing rich, warm memories, as well as calories. This feels necessary, this year especially, when I know that the Gentleman Caller will be heading back to Lowestoft and I’ll be back to the office in London. It’s a long haul from here until the Spring.

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