Holy groundlings! Shakespeare’s Globe theatre is coming to Melbourne this spring. Or, more accurately: an anatomically correct full-scale model of the Second Globe (the one built circa 1614, after the first one burned down). And it’s coming with an ensemble of actors who will be performing Shakespeare’s plays.
In short: this summer you’ll be able to see Shakespeare’s plays in the environment they were created for: a round, 900-seat three-storey venue, partially open to the sky, where no member of the audience – whether seated or standing – will never be more than 15 metres from the stage.
This small miracle comes courtesy of New Zealand-based venture Pop-up Globe, who opened their first season in August 2016 – and have sold more than 200,000 tickets so far, across two seasons in Auckland.
Why model their version on the Second Globe, and not the first? Because the second was built according to specifications from Shakespeare and his company, making improvements to the original. Pop-up Globe based their model on detailed research into the construction of the Second Globe undertaken by associate professor Tim Fitzpatrick and Russell Emerson of the University of Sydney.
The Pop-up Globe will be constructed in the gardens adjacent to Sidney Myer Music Bowl, and open in September 2017. Besides the sheer size of the thing, audiences will be able to find it in the skyline by its gold ‘onion’ dome.
Four existing Pop-up Globe productions will feature in the Melbourne season, performed by a repertory ensemble from Australia and beyond: As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, Othello and Henry V. These will be performed in natural light, with unamplified sound, in period costume, and often using direct-to-audience address – as per the artistic vision for the Pop-up Globe, which prioritises historical accuracy.
Founder and artistic director, Dr Miles Gregory, says “What it is really is a time machine: when you walk into Pop-up Globe you feel like you are stepping back in time 350 years, back to the second Globe theatre on the south bank of London’s Thames. … I think everyone who attends this project will understand – perhaps for the first time – why Shakespeare is the greatest writer in the Western literary canon; they’ll understand the incredible excitement and magic of his shows, and they will have a transformative experience.”
For arguably the most authentically Jacobean theatre experience, you can buy one of the $20 ‘groundlings’ tickets, and stand for the duration of the show.
“They’re called groundlings not because they stand on the ground, but because groundlings are a kind of fish who move together in schools with their mouths open; and indeed, when audiences see the spectacular blood effects, cannons, dancers, costumes – they do often watch with their mouths open.”
Pop-up Globe will run from September 21 - November 12 adjacent to Sidney Myer Music Bowl. For more information and tickets, head to their website.