Shakespeare academic defends Globe board’s decision to remove Emma Rice

Richard Wilson Richard Wilson
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A leading Shakespeare scholar has defended the Globe’s decision to return to staging more traditional productions, claiming it has an “academic responsibility” to do so.

Richard Wilson, who is the Sir Peter Hall professor of Shakespeare studies at Kingston University, said the theatre had a “responsibility to the worldwide scholarly community” to stage productions that represent Elizabethan conditions according to current research.

His comments follow news that Globe artistic director Emma Rice is to step down in 2018 as the theatre reverts to staging work more traditionally.

Expanding on the decision, chief executive Neil Constable said that, from April 2018, the theatre’s programming should be structured around “shared light” productions without designed sound and light rigging, which he added “characterised a large body of the Globe’s work prior to Emma’s appointment”.

Wilson told The Stage that the Globe should present plays “in what the latest research suggests at any time is nearest to the original historical conditions”.  He said this work “should not be the whole of its programme, but it should be its core”.

“The Globe has a responsibility to the worldwide scholarly community, as well as to its audiences, which makes it unlike other UK theatres. This means it has to function as a laboratory for staging Shakespeare in what evolving research suggests are authentic conditions,” he said.

He added that this was an “academic responsibility it shares with a worldwide family of historical theatres, such as the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, Virginia, and the Gdansk Shakespeare Theatre”.

“So, the Globe cannot be governed according to mere British interests. And that is one reason why it’s important that it continues to operate without public funding, and outside the usual Arts Council priorities,” he said.

When news of Rice’s departure broke earlier this week, many people working in the industry hit out at the decision, with some labelling it a “backwards step”.