Category: William Shakespeare

“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

Gender, trickery and double standards (an article on Medium)

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

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Imaginary Forces: Q&A with Michelle TerryIn 2018, we’ve…

Imaginary Forces: Q&A with Michelle Terry

In 2018, we’ve entered an exciting new phase. Our new summer season was announced earlier this month, along with a new visual identity.

In this Q&A, meet Artistic Director Designate Michelle Terry ahead of her first season at Shakespeare’s Globe, which kicks off this April with Hamlet and As You Like It.

What is your first memory of Shakespeare’s Globe?

Queuing for Twelfth Night on a warm Sunday in 2002. I bought a tub of mixed nuts and a pint of beer and stood in the yard on my own and couldn’t believe what I was watching. The most permissive, empowering, autonomous experience I have ever had in a theatre.

Do you have a favourite memory in this building?

Playing the Princess of France in Love’s Labour’s Lost in 2009, I was sitting on a walkway that came out into the yard, facing the stage when I felt a tug on my corset string. I turned my head and a man said, “I’m terribly sorry, your majesty. Your corset has come undone”. It was the most sublime moment where logic and myth came together. It was totally logical to this man that he should save me from an embarrassment, but simultaneously he was immersed enough in the myth and the story to call me “your majesty”! Pure Globe.

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Photo: Love’s Labour’s Lost, directed by Dominic Dromgoole, 2009

Why did you want to work at Shakespeare’s Globe?

It’s the most theatrical space I know and where Shakespeare makes the most sense to me.

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Pictured: ‘And let us… on your imaginary forces work’ (Henry V) – part of our new cause statement

What’s the best thing about your job?

No matter how hard things get, the bottom line is that we all get to work on these incredible plays in these incredible spaces and share them with an audience in the most sensorial and experiential way. It’s extraordinary.

What are your hopes and dreams for the future of Shakespeare’s Globe?

That we continue to delight audiences, from the eight year old to the eighty-nine year old, with these plays in these unique playhouses, and continue to surprise and inspire the passionate aficionados and the newcomer alike. 

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Photos of Michelle Terry by Sarah Lee

What are you most proud of?

To be a part of the history of the journey of this extraordinary building.

Do you have a favourite Shakespeare quote?

‘Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.’ (Measure for Measure)

Favourite Shakespeare play?

All of them!

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Photo: Pete Le May

What would your 90 year old self say to you now?

Keep going. It matters. 

If you could describe Shakespeare’s Globe in one word, what would it be?

Vital. Alive. Wonder-Full… nope, sorry, one word is not enough.

Shakespeare’s Globe Summer Season 2018 goes on sale to the public on 29 January, but you can support us as a Friend to receive priority booking.

All’s Well That Ends Well: Production PhotosAll’s Well…


Martina Laird (Countess of Rossillion) and Will Merrick (Bertram) in All’s Well That Ends Well, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, 2018. (📸: Marc Brenner)


Ellora Torchia (Helena) and Will Merrick (Bertram) in All’s Well That Ends Well, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, 2018. (📸: Marc Brenner)


Ellora Torchia (Helena) in All’s Well That Ends Well, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, 2018. (📸: Marc Brenner)


Nigel Cooke (King of France) and Ellora Torchia (Helena) in All’s Well That Ends Well, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, 2018. (📸: Marc Brenner)


Ellora Torchia (Helena) and Martina Laird (Countess of Rossillion) in All’s Well That Ends Well, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, 2018. (📸: Marc Brenner)


Hannah Ringham (Clown) and Martina Laird (Countess of Rossillion) in All’s Well That Ends Well, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, 2018. (📸: Marc Brenner)


Ellora Torchia (Helena) and Will Merrick (Bertram) in All’s Well That Ends Well, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, 2018. (📸: Marc Brenner)


Ellora Torchia (Helena) in All’s Well That Ends Well, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, 2018. (📸: Marc Brenner)


Nigel Cooke (King of France) in All’s Well That Ends Well, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, 2018. (📸: Marc Brenner)


Imogen Doel (Paroles) in All’s Well That Ends Well, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, 2018. (📸: Marc Brenner)

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.

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All’s Well That Ends Well: Rehearsal PhotosCaroline Byrne…

All’s Well That Ends Well: Rehearsal Photos

Caroline Byrne (Director of The Taming of the Shrew, 2016) brings this dark, twisted and dangerous interpretation of All’s Well That Ends Well to the candlelit intimacy of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse from 11 January – 3 March 2018

Pictured: the cast, in rehearsal, photography by Marc Brenner.

Find out more and buy tickets

See more rehearsal photos on Facebook

Casting announced for All’s Well That Ends WellWe are…


Paige Carter and Buchan Lennon


Will Merrick


Shaun Mason


Louise Mai Newberry


Martina Laird


Imogen Doel


Ellora Torchia


Hannah Ringham


Rob Pickavance


Nigel Cooke

Casting announced for All’s Well That Ends Well

We are delighted to announce full casting for Caroline Byrne’s forthcoming production of All’s Well That Ends Well opening in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse on Thursday 11 January.  

The full cast comprises Paige Carter, Nigel Cooke, Imogen Doel, Martina Laird, Buchan Lennon, Louise Mai Newberry, Shaun Mason, Will Merrick, Rob Pickavance, Hannah Ringham and Ellora Torchia.

Find out more >>

Casting announced for All’s Well That Ends WellWe are…


Paige Carter and Buchan Lennon


Will Merrick


Shaun Mason


Louise Mai Newberry


Martina Laird


Imogen Doel


Ellora Torchia


Hannah Ringham


Rob Pickavance


Nigel Cooke

Casting announced for All’s Well That Ends Well

We are delighted to announce full casting for Caroline Byrne’s forthcoming production of All’s Well That Ends Well opening in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse on Thursday 11 January.  

The full cast comprises Paige Carter, Nigel Cooke, Imogen Doel, Martina Laird, Buchan Lennon, Louise Mai Newberry, Shaun Mason, Will Merrick, Rob Pickavance, Hannah Ringham and Ellora Torchia.

Find out more >>

More holiday photos: Shakespeare’s birth…

More holiday photos: Shakespeare’s birthplace and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Stratford-Upon-Avon.

Nancy Meckler’s production of King Lear brings the play’s humour…

Nancy Meckler’s production of King Lear brings the play’s humour and humanity to the fore in this production, as the notion of familial love is questioned and torn apart.

Now in the Globe Theatre until Saturday 14 October. 
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Streamed for the first time into cinemas across the UK and Ireland on Thursday 21 September. Find a cinema near you. 

New Much Ado About Nothing TrailerYou have until Sunday 15…

New Much Ado About Nothing Trailer

You have until Sunday 15 October to catch Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare’s classic tale of antagonistic romance and madcap humour set in 1914 Mexico.

Buy tickets >>