Written by Karen Campbell

In The News

Woman of the Year: Emma Rice

Our writers pick the women who rocked their world in 2016. Karen Campbell salutes the achievements of Shakespeare’s Globe’s first female artistic director, while failing to comprehend the decision to let her go.

Exit, not pursued by a bear: Emma Rice's stint as artistic director of Shakespeare's Globe has come to an abrupt end. Photo: Sarah Lee.

Exit, not pursued by a bear: Emma Rice’s stint as artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe is coming to an abrupt end. Photo by Sarah Lee.

For me, one woman really stands out this year thanks to her fearlessness, leadership, innovation and bravery and that’s the wonderful Emma Rice, current artistic director at Shakespeare’s Globe.

I have always had a bit of a girl crush on Emma Rice. She brings sparkle and magic to everything she does and transports you to another world from the comfort of a theatre seat.

As a young journo in Leeds, I was lucky enough to be sent along to see and review a lot of Rice’s work when she was at the helm of Kneehigh Theatre. (If you’ve never seen any of Kneehigh Theatre’s productions, do; they’re amazing.)

Rice waved her magic wand over such delights as The Red Shoes, The Bacchae, Brief Encounter and Cymbeline – all filled with deliciously dark delights, underlying sexiness and desire; all depicted with breathtaking staging, music and acting.

“It doesn’t make sense to me that when Baz Luhrmann adapts a classic with gorgeous young actors, a sexy soundtrack and guns instead of daggers on the screen it is lauded, but to attempt this on the stage is viewed as too radical and extreme.”

So when Rice was announced as the new artistic director of the Globe at the beginning of the year, I was among the many people beyond excited and intrigued to see what spells she would cast on this iconic theatre.

However, this is where the bad news comes in and the slightly ranty opinions. After one season in charge, Emma Rice is leaving Shakespeare’s Globe – or, shall I say, being pushed out.

This is a season that has seen “exceptionally strong box office returns,” (CEO Neil Constable); 85 per cent capacity (with rumours that the figures due out in January will show she has broken all summer box office records); attracted a host of new visitors; broken down boundaries in staging, music and, most importantly, has always put the audience at the heart of it all. I mean, isn’t that what Shakespeare’s about?

A scene from Imogen, a reimagining of Cymbeline by Matthew Dunster, performed at Shakespeare's Globe. Photo by Tristram Kenton.

A scene from Imogen, a reimagining of Cymbeline by Matthew Dunster, performed at Shakespeare’s Globe. Photo by Tristram Kenton.

The powers that be have got their knickers in a twist because Rice has used electric lighting and sound; had actors in Adidas tracksuits performing with a Skepta soundtrack; had an EastEnders actress in a lead part; adapted The Bard’s language (for the better in my opinion); and generally pushed boundaries to make things bloody exciting. What a horror.

Her season showcased a clever mix of classic Shakespeare (the jaw-droppingly good and sold-out A Midsummer Night’s Dream), bold new shows and reworkings of her previous productions (the gangland-set, grime-soundtracked Imogen, based on Cymbeline). All received rave reviews and packed out audiences.

For 2017 we can expect more of the same with Rice’s Summer of Love season celebrating the 50th anniversary of the summer of 1967 with, among others, Romeo and Juliet, Nell Gwynn, Kneehigh’s Tristan & Yseult and King Lear.

Emma Rice’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Shakespeare’s Globe. Photo by Steve Tanner.

Emma Rice’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Shakespeare’s Globe. Photo by Steve Tanner.

It seems desperately sad that this will be Rice’s last season, and even sadder thinking of the amazing theatre that could have been. If only those in charge had had the courage of their convictions and stuck by her, rather than basing their viewpoint of what the Globe ‘should’ be on that of Shakespeare’s Globe Trust founder Sam Wanamaker in 1949.

It doesn’t make sense to me that when Baz Luhrmann adapts a classic with gorgeous young actors, a sexy soundtrack and guns instead of daggers on the screen it is lauded, but to attempt this on the stage is viewed as too radical and extreme.

But isn’t that what Shakespeare was? I don’t know if she’s too female, too brilliant or just too progressive for them (whoever ‘them’ may be) but the audiences seem to love her and what she’s doing.

And I bet if Billy S were here today, he’d be the first to stand and applaud. Thank you Emma – I can’t wait to see what your next adventure may be.

Read our contributors’ other picks for women of the year here.

@dreamcatcher_kc

2507 Views
Share:
  • googleplus
  • linkedin
  • rss
  • pinterest

Written by Karen Campbell

Karen Campbell is a life coach at www.your-dreamcatcher.com. She likes gin, James McAvoy and pretending she's not from Scunthorpe.