It’s been a busy time in the theatre world…
First of all, there’s the excitement of the Bridge Theatre – a brand new 900-seat venue going up the expanding tangle of glass buildings on the south bank between London Bridge and Tower Bridge. Set up by Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr after their successful time together at the National Theatre, the first season includes a production of Julius Caesar alongside two new plays*. The theatre world is very excited about the avowed intent to promote new work, in line with the new location** and the flexible nature of the stage which will apparently be able to produce end-stage, thrust-stage and promenade productions. Conversely, I think there’s something wonderfully old-fashioned*** in the announcement that “Freshly-baked madeleines for the interval will be available for pre-order only on a first come first served basis.”
The search has started for a new Artistic Director to replace Emma Rice. Just before the deadline, the theatre itself published two fascinating letters to the future Artistic Director – one from Emma Rice herself, and one from her immediate predecessor, Dominic Dromgoole. I’ve read both the letters and they are a fascinating and interesting contrast. I haven’t been an absolute supporter of Emma Rice at the Globe (I certainly think that the sound and lighting rig was a bad idea, as was the raised stage, and I found little subtlety in either of the productions under her aegis – although I haven’t yet seen one she actually directed herself). And I found her letter a little self-serving – when she says that the Board “began to talk of a new set of rules that I did not sign up to and could not stand by” – if that means shared lighting, it hardly seems like a fundamental principle to stand by, and more like a possibly valid constraint. By contrast, Dromgoole’s letter felt to me an erudite, forceful piece which spoke to vision and to passion. I preferred his letter, just as I have preferred his productions****. Perhaps asking any future Artistic Director to do the same might at least net the Globe someone who they are on the same page as?
I think it was brave and very open of the Globe to commission and to publish the letters, particularly since neither shies away from criticising the Board in particular. Either it’s an agreed move by all concerned to acknowledge and move on from the issues of the past, or there’s a very deep internal divide in the Globe that will make any future Artistic Director’s job much, much harder…
The Rose Playhouse
A small piece last month buried in the Times***** announced that finally – finally! – the Rose is to get a decent treatment. The office block has changed owners and there are plans to be able to excavate the whole site (only two thirds were done in the 1980s), revisit the earlier excavations, and then provide a decent visitor centre and continue to stage plays. While the current set-up is not without its charms (and very enthusiastic volunteers), I would love to see the Rose get the care and attention it deserves – and, combined with the Curtain, this would be a wonderful ornament to the history of London. Apparently the intention is to erect a viewing platform for the public to see the remains being uncovered – watch this space!
* Both of which look interesting and one of which – Young Marx – looks very funny… And the “forward look” includes a large number of intriguing projects, including a Carmen set in Havana and a play based on Fred Hoyle’s novel, The Black Cloud, about a sentient gas-cloud.
** Let’s face it, it’s pretty far from the West End!
*** And very heartening!
**** And I look forward to seeing his films – he plans to follow in the footsteps of Sam Mendes and Phyllida Lloyd and move into movies.
***** I had to negotiate to get my hands on my (very elderly) grandmother’s copy – the article may be available behind the Times paywall online, if you venture into such places…