In the last two years the artistic directorship of Shakespeare’s Globe has gone from one of the juiciest theatre jobs in London to something of a poisoned chalice, after the daring tenure of Emma Rice was brought to a crashing halt after just two years thanks to clashes with the theatre’s board over her use of electric light and sound.
Rice’s replacement has a bloody tough job: general consensus is that Rice was unfairly treated, and the nature of her fall-out with the board is such that any more ‘traditional’ artistic director is in danger of looking timid and not their own person.
Accepting they’re still in our bad books, it feels like the board have made a very good appointment in hiring the acclaimed actor Michelle Terry to the post. A regular performer at the Globe with a scholarly interest in Shakespeare – she often writes her own programme notes – she’s a versatile and sometimes daring actor: her most recent roles were Henry V (at the Open Air Theatre) and the lead in Katie Mitchell’s formidable production of Sarah Kane’s ‘Cleansed’ at the National Theatre.
She’s a great appointment and thoroughly deserving of the role – though it remains to be seen whether or not she can escape the dark clouds of Rice’s departure by programming a first season (next summer) that won’t seem like a retreat to the theatre’s safe space. Her acceptance speech gives little clue as to what she might do differently to her predecessors: she’ll programme ‘not only Shakespeare, but the work of his contemporaries, alongside new work from our current writers’, which is what Rice and Dominic Dromgoole did – and doesn’t even confirm that she’ll be acting in plays – though one assumes she will, making her London’s first actor-director since Kevin Spacey and the Globe’s second after Mark Rylance.
Good luck Michelle – you’re the right person for the job, but it’s not going to be easy.