Emma Rice: Shakespeare's Globe boss to leave over lighting row

Image source, Sarah Lee
Image caption,
Emma Rice recently said she received different criticism than a man would have had

Shakespeare's Globe artistic director Emma Rice is to leave the theatre in 2018 after its board decided her methods were not authentic enough.

Rice took charge of the London theatre in January but has come in for fierce criticism, including for her use of sound and lighting technology.

Chief executive Neil Constable said the theatre was founded to stage plays in keeping with Shakespearean traditions.

That "should continue to be the central tenet of our work", he said.

Image caption,
The Globe, which opened in 1997, is a reconstruction of a Shakespearean theatre

In a statement, he said Rice's "mould-breaking work" had brought in "new and diverse audiences, won huge creative and critical acclaim, and achieved exceptionally strong box office returns".

He continued: "In breaking the mould, this latest season has generated productive debate concerning the purpose and theatrical practice of the Globe, in relation to the use of sound and lighting technology within our theatre spaces.

"Following much deliberation and discussion, the Globe board has concluded that from April 2018, the theatre programming should be structured around 'shared light' productions without designed sound and light rigging, which characterised a large body of The Globe's work prior to Emma's appointment."

The Globe, which opened in 1997, is a reconstruction of a Shakespearean theatre on London's Southbank.

Until Rice's arrival, actors have usually performed in "shared light", meaning the performers can see the audience, who feel more involved, as they would have done in Shakespeare's day.

Image source, Tristram Kenton
Image caption,
Rice came under fire for a reworking of Cymbeline, titled Imogen

Mr Constable added: "The Globe was reconstructed as a radical experiment to explore the conditions within which Shakespeare and his contemporaries worked, and we believe this should continue to be the central tenet of our work.

"Whilst the realisation of Emma's vision has been a vital part of our continuing experimentation as a theatre, we have now concluded that a predominant use of contemporary sound and lighting technology will not enable us to optimise further experimentation in our unique theatre spaces and the playing conditions which they offer."

In a statement, Rice said: "I have had a wonderful time creatively here at the Globe, but I respect the board's decision for its future direction."

The Times recently published an article headlined: "The Globe has been a success story - and Emma Rice is wrecking it."

In a review of a recent reworking of Cymbeline, set in modern gangland Britain, The Telegraph's Dominic Cavendish wrote: "I can't see what this version is doing at Shakespeare's Globe, or, if this form of hacking about with the canon is to be the new norm under artistic director Emma Rice, what the point of the Globe now is."

In a review of the same show, the Financial Times's Ian Shuttleworth asked: "One wonders - in what has already become a mantra during Emma Rice's first season at its helm - what the hell it's doing at the Globe."

But The Guardian's Lyn Gardner said Rice was "not ignoring tradition but boldly investigating how the theatre can remain relevant for modern audiences".

Rice recently said the way people have talked about her since she took over the theatre has made her "blood boil" because critics did not use the same language about men.

Rice replaced Dominic Dromgoole when she arrived from the innovative and acclaimed theatre company Kneehigh. She will leave the Globe following its 2017/18 winter season.

Responding to the news:

  • The Royal Shakespeare Company artistic director Gregory Doran, executive director Catherine Mallyon and deputy artistic director Erica Whyman said they were "dismayed and disappointed to hear the news", according to The Stage.
  • Choreographer Matthew Bourne wrote on Twitter: "Shame on @The_Globe Board! #EmmaRice got me to #TheGlobe for the 1st time. I doubt I will return once she has left. A very dull bwds [backwards] step!"
  • Daniel Evans, artistic director of the Chichester Festival Theatre, wrote: "Shocked to hear that the brilliant Emma Rice is stepping down @The_Globe. The place is poorer without her."

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