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Emma Rice Shakespeare's Globe
© Sarah Lee

Backstage at the Globe with Emma Rice

'There's nothing pretentious about it': we chat to the Globe's new boss Emma Rice about planting a fake forest and tackling her first Shakespeare Summer season

By Andrzej Lukowski
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Tickets go on sale this month for the first Shakespeare’s Globe season programmed by new boss Emma Rice. Former leader of magical, irreverent, romantic Cornish theatre legends Kneehigh, she takes over the Globe despite having expressed ambivalence about Shakespeare in the past. The season starts April 30 2016 with ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, which she directs.

So why did you want the job?

It didn’t occur to me that I’d leave Kneehigh. But I was approached by three different people saying: “Why don’t you apply?” I saw the things that connect me to Shakespeare  – not really the text but working in the open air, really populist work. The brilliant thing about the Globe is anybody can come, it’s a fiver, there’s nothing pretentious about it.

Have you been boning up your Bard?

‘I watched “Othello” for the first time the other day. I mean I knew it, but I’d never seen it – I was horrified by the double matricide at the end!’

Are you actually a Shakespeare fan?

I'm really respectful of him, honest: what a body of work and what a storyteller! But I don’t feel reverent towards him.

Why start with ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’? 

‘So many people asked me over the years if I’d direct it and I’d always said “It’s too obvious.” But I decided to be obvious with the first play of my first season – it’s a play I know, I love, I understand – not a bad thing!’ 

Are women under-represented in Shakespeare? 

‘Shakespeare’s been our blueprint for years, but only men could perform during his time and only 15 percent of his roles were women. Over the years it’s inched up, but it’s not enough. The least I can do is think creatively with an eye to putting more women on stage.’

Emma Rice

You’re going to build ‘a forest’ in the Globe spilling out on Bankside – how big a forest are we talking?

‘Have a look at the model! [see above] It’s going to be quite delicate and magical and metallic, and it’ll light beautifully. And it should be nice to eat your sandwiches under. It’s London, everyone wants fabulous things to happen, don’t they? I’m going to make some fabulous things happen.’ 

Shakespeare’s Globe Summer Season Tickets on general sale Feb 15; priority booking open now.

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