Beset by problems at home and abroad, a capricious king is forced to relinquish his ‘hollow crown’. As his supporters abandon him and his power trickles away, Richard reflects with startling eloquence on the disintegration of his status and identity.
Adjoa Andoh and Lynette Linton direct the first ever company of women of colour in a Shakespeare play on a major UK stage, in a post-Empire reflection on what it means to be British in the light of the Windrush anniversary and as we leave the European Union.
The brief for the design of Emilia was two-fold: one was the information and conceptual elements that came from Morgan [Lloyd Malcolm], the writer, and Nicole [Charles], the director; and the other was having to work within the building and reflect the architecture, because the Globe itself is used as an actual location in the play. So we had the task of bringing both the conceptual and tangible influences into one coherent design.
In terms of working with Morgan and Nicole, I think the inspiration for the whole piece comes from the character of Emilia herself and her historical and fictionalised journey playing in parallel with a lot of the journeys that creative, outspoken and intelligent women still face today. There are unsurprisingly quite a lot of themes and ideas in Emilia that are timeless. The audience and the play are obviously divided by centuries, so there’s a really nice visual paradox that we’re playing with in the language of the set design and the costumes.
Staging the play for this theatre is a wonderful thing because the crescendo of Emilia’s journey takes place at the Globe Theatre. It’s an incredible scene which I think essentially dictated the design and the costume.
We wanted to reflect the patriarchy of the written word in the design. You’ll see on the stage there are a lot of tall, stacked, hard-to-reach bookcases which are inhabited by recognised old tomes that represent the institution or those who have been recognised and held in history. That is how we visualised that battle and inequality within the perceived hierarchy and the patriarchal nature of language at the time.
I’ve tried to feminise the architecture of the Globe. The thrust stage comes out into the audience. We’ve made it even more democratic and accessible to represent the fight Emilia is trying to fight, but it’s fun as we’ve got a space that is coming out into the groundlings and we’re going to try and involve them in part of the performance. It also means you can lose yourself in the set designs, and equally reminds you that this building was essentially built for the majesty of Shakespeare’s work, and what it must have meant to be a woman with a voice but not to have been recognised to the same degree.
I’ve done nearly 50 costume fittings in the last three weeks! What’s wonderful about the costumes is that we’re trying to draw parallels between London 2018 and Elizabethan England. We’re playing with traditional costuming shapes and structures with a stylised flare that allows you to see past the embellishment, and lets you focus more on the structures as well as the presentation of gender.
We have an amazing cast made up entirely of women so there’s a lot of playing with gender. Dressing the female cast members up as some of these quite horrific male characters has been fantastically enjoyable actually and the cast has really taken to it.
All the ‘Bankside women’ in the play have the structures of traditional costume, but we’ve made it all out of very modern workwear materials such as denim, utility cottons and we’ve tried to make parallels with modern fashion such as the French blue work overcoat that you’ll pass many times on Shoreditch High Street. They’ve all got a similar colour palette which Emilia also wears, and so when she moves from the court to Bankside, it appears that she slots in immediately with these women. Nicole describes that moment as Emilia finally finding her tribe. Everyone in court is really structured and corseted, and then when we get to Bankside everyone is looser and freer, and it feels like a more comfortable and safe world to explore their identities.
One of the things that has struck me most throughout the process is how brilliant and talented the backstage team are here. They have such a wealth of knowledge that is unrivalled. They helped mould the design into what it is with the correct historical context.
Jo Scotcher is the Designer of Emilia and the winner of the Whatsonstage ‘Best Set Designer’ award, 2011.
In the run up to our dramatic reading of Kill Shakespeare on Friday 27 July, co-creator and co-writer Conor McCreery has given us an insight into the development of Juliet Capulet for the comic book universe where all your favourite Shakespeare characters collide.
One of the things we’re most proud of with Kill Shakespeare is the legion of fans,
largely female, who come to us saying some variation of the following:
really love what you’ve done with your Juliet. I used to hate her so much, but
I love reading your take – you totally reinvented her.’
Obviously, it’s an ego boost when people
tell you that you’ve somehow managed to improve on the work of the greatest
storyteller in English language history, but it’s not true. We
don’t think we’ve “re-invented” Juliet. Rather, Anthony, Andy, Corin and I just
brought into relief what was already there about the character.
when Hamlet meets Juliet it’s seven years after her ordeal with Romeo, and the
young woman is not only alive, she is leading a rebellion against Richard III!
On the surface, taking our favourite
star-crossed lover and making her Joan of Arc, but with slightly fewer delusional
visions, might seem like a big change. After all, isn’t she kind of a drip? She
just meets this guy and in a couple of days she’s so in love with him that she
enters a suicide pact?
We’d argue though that Juliet is
misunderstood. Instead of being seen as the ballsy take charge kind of girl
that we see, people think of her as passive, or weak.
Here’s our quick case for Juliet as
Elizabethan bad-ass (yeah, yeah, she was supposed to be 14th
In Juliet’s time she is not
legally a person. She is the property of her father for him to do with as he
pleases. Shakespeare makes a point of
showing that her father, at least when it comes to the Montagues, is quick to
anger, and willing to use violent force.
Juliet openly defies her father
by refusing to marry Paris. A bold move for any woman of the time, and especially
when she knows her father has a temper. And, sure enough, Lord Capulet is
enraged. While Capulet threatens to disown Juliet, it wouldn’t be totally out
of the picture for him to change his mind, and kill her for sullying the family
name – especially if he finds out she’s lost her prized virginity to a… Montague.
Speaking of that prized
virginity – another great moment that shows how Juliet is more active than we
realise comes in the balcony scene. Romeo, basically, wants to climb that
balcony to prove to Juliet he loves her, by showering her with affection and,
well, getting it on. Juliet manages this incredibly difficult feat: she tells
Romeo she likes him, is interested, but also knows he was just mooning over some other girl, refuses to let Romeo get too hot or bothered, definitely refuses to let him climb the balcony to make love to her, and does that all without upsetting the fragile ego of the teenage boy.
(I’ve never been a fourteen-year old
girl, but that seems like a pretty difficult path to navigate and a total win
And lastly… after it all goes horribly
wrong, Juliet stabs herself to death with a dagger. To death!
(Our Juliet is no stranger to showing other people the
business end of a dagger.)
So yeah, I’d say Juliet gets a bad rap
as this passive girl with no gumption. That made it easy for us to re-imagine her
as someone who, if she survived, would want to channel all that passion and
self-confidence into something to atone for all the people who had died because
of her actions.
It’s important to note that what Anthony
and I did not want to do, was make
some soulless “terminator” version of Juliet. Yes, she would be trained to
fight. Yes, if she had to, she would kill for her rebellion, but the key thing
to us, was that Juliet was still identified with what she always has been –
It may not be romantic love – in fact, when
you first meet Juliet romantic love is something she’s sworn off. I
mean, she did that, and look what happened – death and heart-ache. But love for your fellow human beings – a love that demands you do something to help them have a better life – that love
Juliet still has in buckets.
It’s a key element to our Juliet’s motives.
She isn’t blind to the criticisms we level at her today. She sees herself as someone
who was once callow, foolish and self-absorbed. That’s why in
she leverages the fact
that she was a child of privilege to find ways to support the nascent Prodigal
(rebel) movement dedicated to overthrowing tyrants like Richard III and Lady
Macbeth. It’s her passion, love for people, and keen mind (as well as getting
taught to kick ass by Othello – read book 5!) that sees her become worthy of
leading a rebellion.
I’m excited that you will get to see our
take on the Bard’s most famous heroine. Because another thing that made me
incredibly proud was when the actress who played our Juliet when the Kill
Shakespeare show played in New York came up to Anthony and me, and told us that this Juliet was perhaps the best role she’d ever played. Because this Juliet, while a rebel and a
fighter, didn’t lose the passion and love she had for those in her life.
Or, as she put it: ‘she didn’t have to give up what makes her a woman, to become a hero.’
Morgan Lloyd Malcolm is a playwright and screenwriter – her newest play, Emilia was written specifically for the Globe Theatre.
A story of the often beguiling and always fascinating Emilia Bassano – whom many consider to have been a muse and inspiration for Shakespeare – Emilia opens on 10 August 2018.
When Michelle Terry asked me to write this play she didn’t just send me off to scribble away on my own; she opened up a treasure box of resources that I guess only places like the Globe can give a writer. The first thing we both recognised from the point of commission was that it would be a very quick turnaround for a new play that would have a cast of thirteen, plus a band, and would be premiered on the Globe Theatre stage less than a year after I signed on the dotted line. Because of this, Michelle essentially said ‘whatever you need, we will let you have’, which are the best eight words a writer could hear (other than ‘we love the script, here’s your royalty cheque’, of course).
The first part of the process involved speaking to Bill Barclay (the Globe’s Director of Music who will be composing) and getting a steer on his style, his tastes and the history of music. I also met with Dr Will Tosh and Dr Farah Karim-Cooper who are two of the incredible academics that work at the Globe and who, with their team, have since our first meeting been providing me with essays, research material and amazing insight into the world Emilia Bassano would have been living in.
This isn’t the first historical piece I’ve worked with, but it’s the most detailed in terms of recognising that this is a period of time that many people know and love and I can’t just busk it. The context around Shakespeare and his possible involvement in Emilia’s life is also a layer that I have had to make sure I know enough about before writing. I have also been working with them on such things as gender politics, feminism and race in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries which have a huge influence on my play, but again add another layer. This is by far the most complex play I’ve tried to write but, as a result, it’s so much fun.
Nicole Charles (who will direct the play) and I met in December for a couple of days of chewing over the research we had been given already and reading books we had both sourced that were relevant to what we are trying to achieve and essentially make sure we are on the same page. I must say that as a writer this is a gorgeous way to work – to be with my director from the very beginning so that we are both working towards a common goal and she’s not playing catch-up a few drafts down the line is a massive gift. The fact that Michelle commissioned this with no script in existence means that everyone has started from scratch on this and therefore I’ve been able to really draw on people’s opinions, research and ideas before sitting down to write.
Talking of writing – that came at the start of February! Nicole and I had another couple of days together researching and talking in January before I sat down and wrote the first draft in two weeks. This isn’t everyone’s method but it is mine (particularly since having kids – carving out dedicated time to write is tricky and I will address this in my next blog, I think). I like to think about something, research it, talk to people for a bit and then sit down and write in a massive flurry. In fact, for the first of those two weeks I think I only wrote about twenty pages as I kept finding more things I wanted to read! So that final push was full-on but really exciting because I knew what I wanted it to be and that by my deadline it was going to exist. It’s a bit like labour when you write like this; except you have an end point you know it has to be done by. Having had two babies it’s not necessarily as physically painful, but it’s just as draining and full of the ups and downs and lack of confidence and surges of power and happiness.
So on 12 February my new babe Emilia was born, and I had a first draft I could send to them with an email full of ‘I know that it’s still pretty sketchy in parts and I’ve not fleshed the second half out enough but it’s a start’ kind of sentences. It’s always terrifying sending first drafts, mostly because of the massive silence you have for a short while after, as you wait for people to read it. Thankfully Nicole, Michelle and the Globe’s Literary Manager, Jessica Lusk, powered through it pretty quickly and sent me their notes straight away. Thankfully it wasn’t the disaster I had convinced myself it was and even more thankfully they were very enthusiastic.
40 students from 20 drama schools arrived at Shakespeare’s Globe on Friday and spent the entire weekend singing, workshopping and dancing together as part of the Sam Wanamaker Festival 2018.
On Sunday they presented duologues from plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries to a roaring crowd. Photographer Cesare De Giglio captured them on stage and also backstage in the lead up to their energetic performance which ended with one mighty ‘Globe jig’!
The event was a gorgeous celebration of the conservatoire training available in the UK and lovely to watch emerging actors perform together as a company.
The 1,500 strong audience raised the ‘roof’ (well, we don’t have a roof but you know what we mean!) in support of the students – on Sunday Shakespeare’s Globe was pulsating with energy, at its liveliest and loudest.
Naturally we can’t wait to do it all again next year. See you in 2019!
We are the 2018 #GlobeEnsemble (currently rehearsing HamletandAs You Like It) and we’re getting into the swing of things. Unlike many other previous Shakespeare’s Globe companies, our group really have been starting from the very beginning.
When we first got together, ‘starting from scratch’ was a key part of our collective brief. All production choices made so far and to be made in the coming weeks will spring from what happens in our rehearsal room.
In the usual theatre-making process, for Shakespeare’s Globe and many other companies, more often than not these decisions are made months before rehearsals start, often months before the production is even cast. For our #GlobeEnsemble, this process really did begin as a completely blank canvas.
The rehearsal room belongs to all of us equally (the designer, the composer, the choreographer, the actors and the directors) in its entirety – it is a test tube in which everything and anything can be flung in and we can be as curious as we wish.
As we continue work, many ideas will be skimmed off, some will dissolve and be completely forgotten… but some powerful ideas will form crystals and be eventually assembled into final productions that we welcome you to from 25 April 2018.
Unusually, this rehearsal process is also ‘open’ which means others (such as staff, students, practitioners and other directors) can sit in the room at any time to watch the plays develop. We think it can be beneficial to share rehearsal processes and experiences, especially with Shakespeare and especially when experimentation is at play. Also, the Globe Theatre is an audience-dominated playing space, more like a football stadium than a conventional theatre! The audience have a huge influence on the performance and so having a busy rehearsal room prepares us for that busy, distracted playing space.
We’ve been thinking about how else we can ‘open’ this space to you, so for the next month we’re going to be taking you inside the test tube digitally via a series of videos and photos. We want you to feel and breathe this process as much as we do. Follow the hashtag #GlobeEnsemble and get ready to see what gets thrown into the mix.