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Emma Rice: ’My working-class background was a barrier at the Globe’

Emma Rice has claimed the board of Shakespeare’s Globe made a “mistake” in appointing her and that her working-class background went against her in the role as artistic director.

Rice, who announced in October 2016 she would be stepping down from the theatre following creative differences, also said her departure came after the theatre’s board introduced a “new mission” for the venue, which did not tie in with her approach to theatremaking.

Emma Rice to step down as artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe [1]

“It was a very simple decision, in that my creative process wasn’t really up for negotiation,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Front Row programme [2].

When asked if a man would have been treated differently by the board, she said it would be hard to “quantify that” but added: “I think it’s possibly to do with my education. It’s possibly more down to class than gender. I got two A Levels and went to a comprehensive in Nottingham.”

Her departure was announced last year after it emerged the board wanted to return to more traditional practices at the venue, with theatre programming structured around ‘shared light’ productions without designed sound and light rigging.

In the interview, presenter Samira Ahmed asked her if she had indicated her productions would use designed sound in the interview process.

Rice said: “No, but neither was I asked.”

She said one of the first shows she had seen at the Globe was a show with lighting, and added she thought this could be improved and developed.

“I was a kid in a play store. The Globe is the most exciting venue on the planet and I was electrified by the experience. I turned up the volume and when I look back now I go, ‘Of course that was inflammatory’. I don’t think I had explained that to them, so I completely take responsibility for that,” she said.

When Ahmed asked if the board had made a mistake hiring her, Rice answered a simple “yes”.

Ahmed also asked Rice about her openness in saying she found some Shakespeare difficult, with Rice claiming she had learnt not to admit this in public “if you want to keep your job”.

“But I do [find it hard],” she said, adding that she had amended some of Shakespeare’s text to make it more accessible to younger audiences.

“I had a child’s eye on that,” she said, and claimed she had been given a “clear vote of confidence” from people who thought Shakespeare was not for them.

“There has to be a place on this planet for them, and in this country,” she said.