Last Thursday [while much of the UK was still on holiday], I attended the press conference at which Michelle Terry revealed her first season at The Globe. And the dynamics in the room were fascinating.
Shakespeare’s Globe has announced that Michelle Terry will be its Artistic Director from April 2018, succeeding Emma Rice, whose controversial departure was announced last October. An Olivier Award-winning actor and writer, Terry is well known to the Globe’s stage, having starred as Rosalind in As You Like It (2015), as Titania/Hippolyta in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2013) and as the Princess …
It is immediately obvious why Nell Gwynn is an Olivier-award winning comedy and it’s down to one inspirational writer – Jessica Swale. An individual with a keen eye for context within the text, Swale’s first play Blue Stocking came to Shakespeare’s Globe and highlighted the power of the historical woman – the first female Cambridge graduates.
Charles II came to the throne (in a fabulous wig, surrounded by fabulous spaniels), with England in a mood to throw aside Puritanism and party. The theatres reopened, and for the first time that Restoration put real women on the stage, wearing as little as they could get away with. Charles had a series of mistresses, most famously the Cheapside orange-seller turned actress, saucy Nell Gwynn. Who deserves deathless memory, if only for the famous occasion when she was mistaken for the King’s (politically necessary) French mistress and barracked in Oxford; leaning out of the coach she cried “Good people, be civil, I am the Protestant whore!”.
Shakespeare’s Globe is delighted to announce that Gugu Mbatha-Raw will star as Nell in Jessica Swale’s new play Nell Gwynn, directed by Christopher Luscombe. Gugu recently starred in the feature films Belle and Beyond the Lights. She first came to fame playing Juliet opposite Andrew Garfield in Romeo and Juliet at the Royal Exchange, Manchester, in 2005. Since then she …
Measure For Measure is one of Shakespeare’s problematic
plays, a comedy that can be difficult to come to terms with for modern
audiences. The mix of bawdy banter and religious fervour is a heady one and Dominic Dromgoole, in his last
directorial outing as Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s
Globe, gives both sides of the argument equal time.
By now I’ve grown to expect an interesting preamble whenever
I see a show at the Globe, from the decadence of Cleopatra’s court to the
capering of a Dromio in Comedy of Errors it pays to be in your seat early… Even
I wasn’t prepared for the anarchy of bawds and whores cooing at the audience
and dragging punters into their houses while the constable gives chase. Its
choreographed anarchy and brilliant fun!
At it’s heart the
show swings around Angelo and Isabella, the former a pious lord who rules
Vienna in the stead of the departed Duke, the latter the sister of a man
sentenced to death for impregnating a young lady who was not his wife. Kurt Egyiawan makes for a particularly
rigid Angelo and the scene where he fails to control his lust for Isabella’s
purity is beautifully played. Mariah
Gale’s Isabella is a beacon of wholesome devotion, save for the moment her
brother begs her to offer up her body in payment for his freedom and she lashes
out at his face. She gives her character layers of conflicting feelings, though
sometimes her voice fails to carry nearly as well as her castmates.
The drama of Isabella’s dilemma is a stark contrast to the
slapstick comedy elsewhere as prostitutes and men of ill repute are rounded up
by the dim-witted Constable Elbow. The two tones give the play some much needed
levity but occasionally threaten to overwhelm the seriousness of the story.
The whole is orchestrated with aplomb by Dominic Rowan’s fast-talking Duke.
Often portrayed as a wise and benevolent benefactor, Rowan gives him the air of
a man making it up as he goes along and never truly sure of what will happen
next. A refreshing take.
As Dromgoole’s globe farewell this is perhaps a lacklustre
choice, but not for want of some great ensemble work. Even in baking heat the
cast were a blur of motion – not easy in woollen costumes that had already been
worn once that day I’m sure!
You could be forgiven, if you didn’t know The Merchant of Venice well, for believing it to be a tragedy and more so for thinking Shylock is one of Shakespeare’s most caricature villains. Thankfully, Jonathan Munby directs with flair, amping up the comedy without losing even a hint of pathos in what may already be the highlight of Shakespeare’s Globe’s summer season.