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'It's very tragic' – Mark Rylance speaks out about Emma Rice's shock departure from the Globe

Andrzej Lukowski

The theatre world was rocked last week by the announcement that Emma Rice, the artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe, would be leaving after just one more summer season, concluding her artistic directorship after just two years. A slightly bizarre press release announcing this praised the commercial success of her first summer season but concluded that the Globe would be reverting back to ‘shared light’ (eg no stage lights or amplification) after she’d left.

Nothing else official has been announced since, and in the information vacuum a lot of recriminations have been lobbed at both sides by various figures in the arts world.

But this week I interviewed somebody who does seem to know what’s going on: the great actor Mark Rylance, founding artistic director of the Globe, alongside his wife Claire van Kampen, director of music at the Globe for 20 years.

Here’s what Rylance had to say about Rice.

‘It’s a very painful situation, and I’ve seen a lot of comments jumping in on one side or the other but believe me I know all these people, I love and admire Emma and I love and admire the Globe and they have been struggling all summer to find a way to avoid having this divorce. No theatre board or trust wants a situation like this and no artistic director wants a situation like this and it’s very tragic and unfortunate that they haven’t found a way to work together because they’re both wonderful artists but they both have very specific needs. They both have a keen sense of their identity and somewhere in the interview process they didn’t quite understand each other. I certainly don’t think that there’s blame on one side or the other, I think maybe on both sides there’s been a misunderstanding.

‘It’s not that the Globe has to be a place where you can only do things without amplification and lights, but it’s never been a place that’s closed down what directors want to do. But if one style of production prevents everybody else from doing any other kind – which was what happened this summer – it was impossible to do anything else in there, that was a difficult situation.’

In other words (and as he confirmed again after the interview) Rylance’s take is that Rice wouldn’t allow any non-amplified productions at all (in part because it would be physically impossible to take the sound and lighting rigs down in time to allow ‘shared light’ production to run in rep) and no compromise was found.

The full interview – which pertains to Rylance’s van Kampen-directed West End play ‘Nice Fish’ – will run in Time Out in a couple of weeks’ time.

'Nice Fish' runs at the Harold Pinter Theatre, Nov 15–Feb 11 


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