Emma Rice to step down as artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe

Emma Rice has been appointed artistic director at Shakespeare's Globe. Steve Tanner Emma Rice, new artistic director of Shakespeare's Globe. Photo: Steve Tanner
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Emma Rice is to step down as artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe in April 2018, after the board decided the venue should return to more traditional staging.

Rice took up the post in April this year, and will have held the position for two years when she leaves. She introduced a revamped lighting rig to the theatre, alongside a new sound system.

According to a statement, the board and Rice had “determined that the current nature of work, which has characterised the period since Emma assumed the position of artistic director in April 2016, will conclude in April 2018”.

Chief executive Neil Constable said that Rice’s “mould-breaking work” had brought new and diverse audiences to the venue and had achieved “strong box office returns”.

However, he added: “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 added that 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,” he said.

Rice said she respected the board’s decision for its future direction.

“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. The wonder now continues with the Wonder Noir Winter Season, and ahead to my 2017 summer season, which promises to be filled with joy, delight and love,” she added.

Rice’s work at the venue has attracted controversy, with journalist Richard Morrison criticising Rice as an artistic director “who doesn’t seem to trust Shakespeare to deliver a good script”.

Just last week, Rice spoke out about the sexism she felt she had faced running a major venue.

Read the industry’s reaction to Emma Rice’s departure here