The 2016 Shakespeare's Globe season is called Wonder and is the first season under the new Artistic Director Emma Rice. She has a fresh opinion of how things should be done: more modern dress, gender swapping, a welcome to crying babies. As an example the final Emma Rice production was Shakespeare's “Cymbeline” which is to be retitled “Imogen” because that character has three times as many lines as the king. More controversially she encourages the replacing of Shakespearian phrases that she believes may not be understood with ones that will be. One step away fom complete translations that may be understood, but no longer sound like Shakespeare. I was sceptical, but willing to give the new régime a chance before condemning it, but having seen three productions and seen reviews of one other I am worried about the future of the Globe project.
The season consisted of four mainstream Shakespeare productions opening with “A Midsummer Night's Dream”. “The Taming of the Shrew” directed by Caroline Byrne. Iqbal Khan directed “Macbeth”. Finally Matthew Dunster directed “Imogen”, the retitled “Cymbeline”
The season also welcomed back Jonathan Munby's production of “The Merchant of Venice” starring Jonathan Pryce. This was a highlight of the 2015 season. It then went on tour and returned to the Globe for a short period in October.
A modern play called “946 - The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips” adapted from a Michael Morpurgo novel was directed by Emma Rice. This was a co-production with her previous company Kneehigh.
The first production of the season confirmed my fears about the new régime, but appears to be loved by critics and certainly the audience of which I was a part. It is directed by the new Artistic Director Emma Rice herself so can be seen as an example of what we are to get in the future.
The "rude mechanicals" were dressed in "Team Globe" T-shirts and all but Bottom (described as a security officer) were women. I know that their performance of “Pyramus and Thisbe” at the end of the play is supposed to be farcical but for me it was too much over the top and too long. Again my fellow playgoers disagreed.
The lovers were described as "Hoxton Hipsters" – Hoxton is a local London borough. I should have thought that the story of the lovers in the forest was confusing enough, but change for change's sake gives us not Helena but Helenus a gay man!
One innovation I do approve of is the casting of cabaret artiste Meow Meow as Titania/Hippolyta. She is a very good actress and a very seductive Queen of the fairies. The music from the balcony above the stage was provided by an electric sitar and was very attractive.
So not a promising start for me.
Here we go again. This was Shakespeare's play called “Cymbeline” which has been "renamed, reclaimed and refocused". It seems that Shakespeare was wrong to name this play after the king. His daughter has three times as many lines, so it was now to be called “Imogen”. The director was Matthew Dunster.
It's not the production, it's me! That was my first reaction, but this really is too much. Forgetting the arrogant messing about with the text, this is gimmickry for the sake of it. Cymbeline's court became a 2016 London drug dealing gang. The queen's son Cloten gives a good kicking to a rival gang member's head on stage. The cast was a mixture of professional and community actors, probaly explaining why I had difficulty understanding the words. Fights apparently needed to be 3D like in “The Matrix” with actors up and down ropes! I quite enjoyed the Grime music and the whole cast stomping around to it. On a positive note, Maddy Hill who used to be in the BBC soap “Eastenders” as the central Imogen was very good. As before this season, I miss seeing Shakespeare's play as he would have recognised it.
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