The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0532 Monday, 5 June 2006
From: David Crystal <
Date: Sunday, 4 Jun 2006 22:14:03 +0100
Subject: 17.0520 A Roof on the Globe?
Comment: Re: SHK 17.0520 A Roof on the Globe?
Doubtless the technical debate will run a while, but SHAKSPERians may in
the meantime like to see a compilation of critics' comments about the
Globe roof following press night last Monday. Of the ten reviews I've
read, eight were positive, most extremely so.
Paul Taylor, The Independent, 31 May: 'probably the best production I've
seen at Shakespeare's Globe in the 10 years of its existence. ... Bill
Dudley's striking design, which wraps the pillars, the ornate stage
decoration and the musicians' galley in funereal black, conjures up a
creepy claustrophobic Rome ("a wilderness of tigers"), with echoes of
the Pantheon and a gladiatorial arena. This ritualistic space is
constantly energised by mobile platforms pushed through the crowed
bearing bickering factions and by baleful ceremonials.'
Michael Billington, The Guardian, 1 June: 'The transformation of the
Globe continues. Designer William Dudley has given the building an
astonishing makeover: it is covered by a canvas awning, the pillars and
back wall are swathed in black, caverenous exits seem to lead to the
mouth of hell. The result is to lend the space a glowering intimacy
entirely appropriate for Lucy Bailey's excellent production of
Shakespeare's earliest tragedy. ... the joy lies in seeing a
once-derided play done with such gusto, and the Globe itself acquiring
the hermetic darkness of a tragic venue.'
The production was 'The choice' in the Daily Telegraph, 3 June, and also
the 'Critics choice' in The Sunday Telegraph, 4 June. Of the design:
'The Globe has been covered with a dark canopy, the highly decorated
stage shrouded in black fabric to create a "temple of death".'
Susannah Clapp, The Observer, 4 June: 'Much speculated about before
Titus Andronicus opened, William Dudley's design is the first really to
impose itself on the Globe. Dudley wraps the mottled purple pillars in
black cloth, makes a cave of dark fabric at the back of the stage, and
for the first time shelters the whole theatre under a roof: gauzy grey
swathes of material shadow the stage, without protecting the audience
from rain or wind. It encloses, subdues, threatens: it effectively
announces the mood that the play will expound, but in a production as
strong as this, that hardly needs emphasising.'
Sam Marlow in The Times, June 1: 'The designer William Dudley drapes the
stage in black fabric and adds a canopy that blocks out the sky. This
increased intensity, along with showers of dark confetti, emphasises the
sense of an uneasy alliance between the funereal and the celebratory as
Douglas Hodge's Titus Andronicus appears, fresh from defeating the Goths.'
Nicholas de Jongh in The Evening Standard, 31 May: 'The effect of
Dudley's design "is liberating and exciting ... [as] the Globe, true to
Titus Andronicus' dark spirit, becomes a timeless, claustrophobic arena.'
Maxwell Cooter in whatsonstage.com, 1 June: 'William Dudley's
black-themed set... adds an imposing grandeur to the action.'
Alastair Maculay in the Financial Times, 31 May: 'Lucy Bailey directs:
she has so much of the play happening in the central auditorium arena
that she makes it a promenade performance for the groundlings. A shame
she makes no use of the Globe stage's upper galleries (Jonathan Bate's
brilliant 1995 Arden introduction to the play makes much of the bold
innovations of Shakespeare's use of his theatre's space), but her
staging is constantly lively, with gas ascending, confetti falling,
The rave reviews were slightly tempered by two negative reactions in the
Sundays. Christopher Hart in The Sunday Times (June 4) called it an
'uneven production' and was critical of the design: 'William Dudley's
set is a bit of a letdown, however. Swagging the stage in funereal
drapes from top to bottom works a treat, but the much-anticipated
velarium, a kind of awning covering the roof of the Globe for the first
time, is disappointing. Instead of some heavy-duty black canvas trapping
audience and players alike in a suffocating gladiatorial arena, these
strips of rather floaty PVC are just too lightweight to have the
desired, louring effect.'
Kate Bassett in the Independent on Sunday (4 June) is the only really
negative review I've seen of the play, but she doesn't mention the roof
In addition, the production motivated two dailies to devote laudatory
editorial third leaders to the Globe - something I've never seen before.
The Guardian's was headed 'In praise of... the Globe Theatre' (1 June)
and The Daily Telegraph was headed 'Die laughing' (3 June). However,
neither mentioned the design specifically.
Professor David Crystal
Holyhead LL65 1PB, UK
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook,
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