“If there was ever a play that questions gender… this is it.”In…

“If there was ever a play that questions gender… this is it.”

In this Q&A, Director Michael Oakley discusses his upcoming production of Much Ado About Nothing, which is this year’s Playing Shakespeare 2018 with Deutsche Bank – our annual performances for schools, families and those new to Shakespeare.


The first ever Playing Shakespeare with Deutsche Bank production was Much Ado About Nothing and that was your first professional gig, wasn’t it?

Yes, I was Assistant Director on it. It’s a play that means an awful lot to me. I remember the response from the students was incredibly raw and truthful. It was thrilling.

How are you going about preparing for this production?

The Globe space is different from anywhere else and it marries well with this play because the audience are sometimes put in a position where they are more in the know than the characters on stage. In order for that to work to its best advantage and create tension in the scenes, you have to have a strong relationship with your audience in the set up. The Globe is the ideal place for this interaction to be fully realised as it creates such a unique experience between actor and audience.

These performances last around an hour and a half. What has been your approach to cutting the text?

The play is easier to cut than others – there’s an Elizabethan rule that Beatrice and Benedick rather brilliantly embody, where you never give just one example, you always give four or five to illustrate your point. When you take some of that away, the story becomes much more direct. 

In a play about love, why do you think there’s so much prose?

It’s often said that verse exists only when the characters are telling the truth, but in the one scene that’s entirely in verse in this play, the characters are lying! I think there’s a sense in this play that the characters don’t always know how to cope with their feelings and that might be why there’s more prose. This gives more danger to the language because you don’t know when people are telling the truth and sometimes they don’t know when they’re telling the truth themselves – there’s constant misinterpretation and deceit. The only time Beatrice ever speaks in verse is this rather beautiful moment where she’s heard a few home truths and she asks, ‘What fire is in mine ears? Can this be true?’ and she’s devastated about that, and that’s so illuminating and wonderful. 

This use of language as a sort of protective armour is why I feel this is such a good play for young people. We self-preserve and self-project the image that we want other people to see. This focus on how you are perceived by your peers and how they respond to you is an important theme for the characters in this play. It’s only when the characters realise that actually telling the truth, and that being open with each other is the better way to live – that they grow up and move on. 

I think that’s what Shakespeare always does in his plays, especially in the comedies, he offers his characters’ mistakes as examples and invites us to respond to them and recognise ourselves in them.

I know you’re particularly interested in the Hero and Claudio relationship…

The main narrative of the text is the appalling deceit of Hero by Claudio which has the most dreadful consequences for everyone. I think it’s important that we build up to that moment and then look at the effects of it. Hero becomes a very different character when she’s not with her father – she becomes much more in command. In some scenes, she’s as witty and vivacious as Beatrice, but she has a father who she has to please. 

Claudio undertakes one of the biggest emotional shifts in the play, and I’d argue, one of the biggest emotional shifts in the whole canon. In The Winter’s Tale, Leontes (who’s like Claudio ten years down the line) talks about his ‘re-creation.’ He recognises the need to see things differently after the crisis he’s faced and I think Claudio has to do that too. 

For me, one of the most telling lines in the whole play is when Claudio finds out Hero isn’t dead and says, ‘Sweet Hero, now thy image doth appear in the rare semblance that I lov’d it first.’ He still hasn’t grown up and it’s not until he sees her, and not his image of her, that he can change. 

How has the time that we live in and this particular audience influenced your work on the play?

We’re talking more about gender now and if there was ever a play that questions gender – this is it. The world of social media makes us much more aware of what people think and say about us now too. On Instagram we select the image we want to project of ourselves for the world to see.

And it’s a world where reputations can be ruined in a moment…

Absolutely. Look at Snapchat and the problems there are in schools when people post comments about images which can be devastating and destructive. Reputation, honour and our sense of self-worth and how they are linked to our image is what this play questions and explores. Part of my job is to extract the thematic strands that make it more immediate and direct for a younger audience today. Some of those strands have gained an urgency today that they didn’t have ten years ago.

Tell us about your ideas for how music will feature.

Music is really important in this play. It’s referred to in the text so many times. The last line, ‘Strike up, pipers,’ is key and the two songs in the play are very important musical moments. The first, ‘Sigh no more, ladies’, could be the catchphrase of the whole play. The music at the tomb when Claudio goes through his ‘reformation’ should be very emotive and visceral. Shakespeare knows that sometimes words aren’t enough and that music can move us in a different way.

What questions are you hoping the audience will take away from this production?

Much Ado About Nothing is always called a comedy and I think it’s wonderfully funny but it also very nearly becomes a tragedy. In the final scene, the play forgives Claudio, but whether as an audience member we go for it or not is something I would love everyone to walk out asking themselves. Hero forgives Claudio, could I? Shakespeare often presents difficult questions and doesn’t always make it an easy ride for his audience.

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Pictured: Tom Davey, Olly Fox, Charlyne Francis. Tyler Fayose, Emilio Doorgasingh, Rachel Winters, Etta Murfitt, Michael Oakley, Charlotte Mills & Fiona Hampton in rehearsals. Photography: Cesare de Giglio.

Read more about Playing Shakespeare with Deutsche Bank

See rehearsal photos

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February Half-Term 2018 at Shakespeare’s GlobeThis half-term…

February Half-Term 2018 at Shakespeare’s Globe

This half-term families with children of all ages can enjoy workshops and events as part of our storytelling festival (themed around water!), Tales for Rainy Days.

We’re also running a special offer for our Guided Tours & Exhibition -tickets for children have been reduced to just £5 (down from £7.50) when booking online in advance.

As part of the Exhibition, families can also enjoy free live demonstrations, including of Elizabethan dressing, sword fighting and seeing the working of a replica printing press. These demonstrations take place daily between 11.00am to 4.00pm and are included in your tour ticket (which lasts all day, so you can pop out for lunch and come back in the afternoon if you please).

As part of the Tours & Exhibition we also have a printed Family Trail and an audio guide for younger visitors.

In our Underglobe area throughout half-term, you’re free to just come sit for a quiet moment away from the Southbank. There will be cushions, beanbags and mats in this indoor area, and children’s books to read. There will be a separate buggy park area for the day.

We hope to see you then!

Explore workshops and events as part of the ‘Tales for Rainy Days’ festival

Read more about our Guided Tours & Exhibition

Plan your visit

Southwark Youth Theatre Blog: A Belated Happy HolidaysThe…

Southwark Youth Theatre Blog: A Belated Happy Holidays

The beginning of February is not perhaps the most conventional time to wish you a happy holiday, but I hope you will accept this belated piece of festive cheer on behalf of the Southwark Youth Theatre as we reconvene after our Christmas break.

We ended our last term on a high, with a very successful winter sharing performance in which the youth company showcased all of the skills they have gained over the last few months. 

In our first term, we focussed on the art of improvisation; a kind of acting based on the performers’ ability to say ‘yes’ to anything offered to them on stage – no matter how nerve-wracking or how ridiculous. To acquire this skill is no mean feat, but the company tackled it with gusto. 

We began the process with games like ‘MARTHA’, where the company are given a description of a scene to make a freeze frame image of, with every member striking a pose and describing what they are in the scene (which can be anything from ‘I am the king’ to ‘I am the air of grandeur’). 

After they had mastered this, the company built up to creating their own devised scenes for the sharing performance. The younger group’s scenes were based around themes from King Lear (using puppets and drums aplenty), while the older group’s were centred around different objects symbolising the themes (which brought us, amongst other things, the strange tale of the pineapple of love).

After a well-deserved round of applause we broke for Christmas, before meeting again early last month to begin preparation for our spring term sharing. This time, the company will be treating us to a scripted performance on the Globe stage, made up of short scenes from twelve Shakespeare plays and poems, all looking at the theme of ‘families’. 

Making use of some ‘greatest hits’ like Othello and Romeo and Juliet, as well as lesser-known works like Cymbeline and Sonnet 37, the company’s March Sharing promises to show Shakespeare’s families in all their dysfunctional glory – with, if we are lucky, a few happy endings thrown in.

With the parts assigned and the read-throughs completed, we can begin to knuckle down to the business of rehearsing. Add that to the theatre trips and performances we’ve got coming up this term and there won’t be a dull moment for the Southwark Youth Theatre in 2018.

Words: Dorothy McDowell

Margaret Casely-Hayford appointed as Chair of Shakespeare’s…

Margaret Casely-Hayford appointed as Chair of Shakespeare’s Globe

We are delighted to announce that Margaret Casely-Hayford has been appointed as the new Chair of the
Board of Trustees at Shakespeare’s Globe. She takes over from Lord Bichard, who
has served three years as Chair and ten years as a Trustee.

Margaret Casely-Hayford says: ‘I’ve always disliked seeing the arts weaponised and used as a tool to
carve out and perpetuate the distance between the privileged and everyone else.
So, it is an honour and a joy to be at the helm of an organisation that strives
to make sure that its rich cultural heritage is accessible and available to
all.’

Neil Constable, Chief Executive of Shakespeare’s Globe, says:
I am thrilled to be welcoming Margaret
as our new Chair of the Board. With a wealth of experience in senior roles
across the private and public sectors, she has an excellent understanding of
the needs of a complex organisation with international profile and reach. Her
mixture of legal, business and charitable expertise will be enormously valuable
to us. After thirteen years of service, including three as our Chair, I’d like
to thank Lord Bichard for his dedication to the Globe.’

Margaret has a breadth of experience spanning the
commercial, charitable and public sectors. She is currently Chair of ActionAid
UK, appointed in 2014. The charity is dedicated to relief of poverty and to
education, with a specific focus on the establishment and promotion of the
rights of women and girls. Previously she was a Government appointed
non-executive director of NHS England (2010 – 2014). Other Government
appointments include being a Special Trustee for eight years of Great Ormond
Street Hospital Charity and Trustee of the Geffrye Museum. She is also
nonexecutive director of the Co-op Group.    

Margaret is involved with a number of education
organisations, including being Chair of the advisory board of start-up Ultra
Education, which teaches entrepreneurial skills to children from primary school
upwards. She is a Patron of the Sir John Staples Society and supports London Music
Masters, which both seek to encourage cultural and music education in state
schools. Most recently in May 2017, she was appointed as Chancellor of Coventry
University.

Previously, Margaret worked for nine years as Director of
Legal Services and Company Secretary for the John Lewis Partnership plc, where
she also operated as senior legal and compliance advisor to the Executive
Chairman and Senior Management of the Partnership group. Prior to that, she
worked for twenty years as a solicitor and was a partner at the global law
firm, Dentons.  

Playing Shakespeare 2018: In RehearsalRehearsals are underway…

Playing Shakespeare 2018: In Rehearsal

Rehearsals are underway for Playing Shakespeare 2018 with Deutsche Bank.

This version of Much Ado About Nothing is created for those new to Shakespeare, young people, families and schools. 

Performances start on 23 February.

Photography by Cesare de Giglio

Find more photos and information on Facebook

Kill Shakespeare / Shakespeare’s Globe

Kill Shakespeare / Shakespeare’s Globe:

Live dramatic reading of Kill Shakespeare at The Globe this July!

“Combining live performance, music and fantastical imagery from the comic book series; Kill Shakespeare: The Dramatic Reading brings to life an epic adventure that might just change the way you look at Shakespeare forever.”

Acclaimed Shakespeare stage productions to be …

Acclaimed Shakespeare stage productions to be shown on BBC:

Donmar Warehouse’s all-female Shakespeare trilogy and Andrew Scott’s Hamlet are going to be shown on the BBC in 2018!

shakespearesglobeblog: All’s Well That Ends W…

shakespearesglobeblog:

All’s Well That Ends Well: Production Photos

All’s Well That Ends Well plays in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse until Saturday 3 March 2018. Photography by Marc Brenner.

Buy tickets →

Learning the Ropes as a Tour Guide at Shakespeare’s GlobeIn this…

Learning the Ropes as a Tour Guide at Shakespeare’s Globe

In this new series of blogs, we’re going to take you behind the scenes of our Guided Tours & Exhibition. Open all year round, the tour gives you an opportunity to learn more about this unique building and its most famous playwright, Shakespeare.

In our first blog post last week, Ffion explored the magic of sharing theatre experiences and in today’s blog, Nicola Pollard talks about the training involved in becoming a guide at one of the world’s most interesting theatre venues.

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We’re sometimes asked how we come to be a Tour Guide at Shakespeare’s Globe, so I thought I’d give you a little insight!

There are a fair number of us, around 45 or so. Some work more regularly than others, it’s a flexible contract so we can fit this around other work. A number of our team are tour guides at other attractions and locations, like the Houses of Parliament or St Paul’s Cathedral. Others are involved in the theatre industry as actors or directors, or are retired from a wide range of professions, or have recently graduated and are working out what they want to do with life! What unites us all is a love of the Globe and a desire to share that with you. 

Once through the interview stage, every new guide gets five days of training. Mine was all in one week, and I like to refer to it as the ‘intensive version’ (or crash course!). The first couple of days are all about absorbing the nature of the job, shadowing other guides on their tours, picking up hints and tips and wading through the epic manual. We are assigned a mentor – a wise and experienced guide – who is on hand to answer any questions and show us the ropes. The mentor also helps us shape and structure our tours, listens to us stumble through numerous versions and then (hopefully) deems us ready for a final test. 

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Each tour we give must include basic information about the Globe, such as when and how it was built, Sam Wanamaker’s vision, playing styles then and now. But after that, we can pepper our tours with whatever information we feel fits, as long as it’s accurate, interesting and enjoyable for our audience! 

The final test is taken with real, live, unsuspecting members of the public. We’re given the first tour of the day, usually about 15 to 20 people, followed (literally) by our Line Manager, Chris, and another experienced guide or member of the Exhibition department, complete with their clipboards and check-lists. Let’s be honest, I’ve had more relaxing hours in my life. You’ve rehearsed it, practiced it at home, practiced it around the Globe, said it yourself and said it out loud (probably shouldn’t have done the latter on the train). 

Luckily, I had a really friendly group for my test and after waving the crowd away at the end, I turned to my assessors. This is not unlike that moment at the end of a driving test when you wait to see if they’re going to fill in the special form, or look at you with a disappointed expression. I passed!

If you don’t get it right first time, you’re given the chance to look over the feedback and try again. After passing, you’re offered a contract as a Globe Tour Guide, given a shiny new ID card complete with (in my case) awful photo and voila, you’re part of the team. 

For my first few weeks (ahem, months) I found I was always learning something new. I learnt how to adapt a tour to a group of exhausted Spanish students who were coming to the end of a tiring week in London. I learnt how to best show around a group with mobility issues. I learnt new terms. I learnt the location of Middle Gallery Bay L. 

I like this place, and willing could waste my time in it. So, come and while away your time with us. Whether we’ve been here five months or five years, we’re more than happy to take you round.

Read more about Guided Tours & Exhibition

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Words: Nicola Pollard
Photos: John Wildgoose and Shakespeare’s Globe