Shakespeare's Globe to get new artistic director after lighting controversy

Updated: 

Shakespeare's Globe is to get a new artistic director after bosses decided the current creative lead had developed a style too far from the Bard's original work.

Artistic director Emma Rice is due to leave her role at the reconstructed theatre on London's South Bank in April 2018 when a change in direction of the venue's programme will also take place, following a difference of opinion over lighting techniques.

Productions at the Globe in Shakespeare's day used shared light, which means that actors and audiences are able to see each other throughout the performance so that the cast plays "with" rather than "at" the crowd.

Shakespeare's Globe
The Globe will be under new direction (John Walton/PA)

Under Rice's direction, more contemporary separate sound and lighting rigging had been used, but the board has now decided that the modern staging tools have tainted the original aim of recreating an authentic historical theatregoing experience.

Globe CEO Neil Constable said: "Emma's mould-breaking work has brought our theatre new and diverse audiences, won huge creative and critical acclaim, and achieved exceptionally strong box office returns.

"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."

He explained more about the decision to change artistic direction, saying: "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."

Shakespeare's Globe
The theatre has a unique setting (Yui Mok/PA)

Rice, who was first appointed at the Globe in May 2015 and then became artistic director designate in November 2015 and artistic director in April 2016, will leave following the 2017/18 winter season and has just announced her 2017 summer season programme at the theatre.

Themed Summer of Love to mark the 50th anniversary of the summer of 1967, it will include productions of Romeo and Juliet, Nell Gwynn, Twelfth Night, Tristan & Yseult, Much Ado About Nothing, King Lear and Boudica.

Shakespeare's Globe
Audiences will be back to watching performances in the same light as the actors (Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)

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

"I look forward to continuing to explore the possibilities of this extraordinary space over the next 18 months, excited to see even more astonishing work unfolding in the glorious wooden 'O' as well as the exquisite Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.

"My tenure as artistic director has given me the opportunity of forging relationships with the most talented array of directors, actors and Globe staff throughout my 2016 Wonder Season, who I will be sad to say farewell to."