The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0532  Monday, 5 June 2006

From: 		David Crystal <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
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, 
towers travelling.'

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 
at all.

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
Gors Avenue
Holyhead LL65 1PB, UK

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