Pelican got in touch with Dr Miles Gregory to answer all your questions about the arrival of the Pop-up Globe.
What was the motivation to bring the Pop-up Globe to Perth?
From the very beginning our vision has been to share the magic of Shakespeare performed in the space for which it was written with as many people as possible around the world. Perth is the furthest we’ve ever been, and we know that Perth is a city with great ambitions to develop its arts and culture status over the next ten years. We see Pop-up Globe coming to Perth as a great opportunity for the city to celebrate its increasing status as a city where arts and culture matter.
What does a full-scale working replica of the second Globe theatre entail?
Pop-up Globe is a dimensionally accurate full-scale working replica of Shakespeare’s own theatre, the second Globe. it is a huge, three story building, with audiences on all levels surrounding the large stage. It’s no joke building such a huge theatre in such a short space of time. We continue to work with experts in many fields to deliver this amazing feat. From engineers to scaffolding designers, Jacobean theatre experts to special effects supervisors, building Pop-up Globe is a remarkable challenge in itself.
How did you decide which of Shakespeare’s plays to perform this season?
We preview all of our productions for many weeks at our home Pop-up Globe in Auckland, New Zealand, where our company’s productions headquarters are located. The four plays we are bringing to Perth have already had extensive seasons in Auckland to get them to the best possible performance level before we transfer them to our new Pop-up Globe in Perth. We always choose a mixture of comedy and tragedy. A particular treat for Perth audiences will be our production of Measure for Measure – a rarely performed play that is enjoying a global resurgence of interest at the moment and that audiences will find extremely relevant to today’s world.
The modelling of the theatre after the second Globe theatre suggests a (tendency) towards ‘historical accuracy’ in performing these plays – how much further does the historical accuracy go, for example female characters played by men or standing room around the theatre?
We are lucky to work with an artistic and creative team that not only has huge experience in producing Shakespeare, but also in the historical conditions of performance at the theatres of Shakespeare’s time. Pop-up Globe’s dimensions as a theatre are drawn from years of research by Professor Tim Fitzpatrick and Mr Russell Emerson of Sydney University. It includes standing room for around 300 audience members around the stage, in the yard of the theatre. These audience members stand just inches from the stage, right in the heart of the action, splattered with blood and often in conversation with the actors. The atmosphere in the theatre is more like a boxing match or sports game than a traditional theatre experience. I think that’s why people – especially young people – find the experience of watching Shakespeare at Pop-up Globe such a revelation.
Over the years we’ve experimented with all male productions, mixed productions and gender reversed productions, but the shows coming to Perth will be largely a 50:50 mix of male and female actors.
Why Shakespeare? Do you see the themes of his writings as relevant to a modern audience, or more of an insight into the values and attitudes of the past?
Shakespeare remains one of the most influential and popular writers in history. Seeing his work in performance not only opens up insights into the past, but offer new perspectives on how much society has changed since his plays were written. There’s no doubt that Shakespeare is deeply relevant to a modern audience. The fact that over half a million people have enjoyed Pop-up Globe in just a few years shows how relevant Shakespeare remains.
How many people are involved with the production? Are many sourced locally from Perth?
Pop-up Globe is a major producing theatre company. Thirty-four professional actors and musicians travel with the company, with a support team of around twenty comprising stage managers, dressers, a company manager, and a resident director. So there’s about fifty in the cast and crew, and another twenty or so in our front of house team. All of our front of house team come from Perth, but our actors are drawn from around the world. We’ve always been an international ensemble – we believe that bringing people from diverse cultures and countries adds real strength to the company.
Do the actors perform in all the shows or is there a different cast for each play?
We’re a repertory theatre company, so each company of actors performs two productions. In Perth, the four productions are presented by two acting companies. Audiences are often amazed when they see the different parts actors play in each production. For example, the actor playing Malvolio in Twelfth Night one night plays a wall in A Midsummer Night’s Dream the next night. This also means that there aren’t any ‘small parts’ – every actor plays a leading role in one production and a smaller role in the other. So every actor has to be capable of playing a lead. This leads to real depth and quality in the acting company.
With the Pop-Up Globe being situated at Crown Perth, are you and the host venue intending for people to make a night-out of it? Was this one of the main considerations when choosing a site location?
We love to perform in the heart of a city, and theatre should be a full and fun night out. So we’re delighted to be next to the Crown, meaning that people can enjoy dinner there before the show and make a night of it.
On the Pop-Up Globe website, you say that this isn’t dusty old Shakespeare, rather it’s like a party. What have you and the production team done to make this more so, seeing as the use of Elizabethan English and the period setting are often an accessibility barrier to people.
Pop-up Globe are famous for making Shakespeare that is fun, lively, contemporary and unforgettable. Our audiences forget that they’re watching ‘Shakespeare’ about five minutes into the show. The actors speak directly to the audience, often ad-libbing, and having a really fun time themselves. We’re a happy company of equals – all actors are paid the same wage, and we are deeply committed to our company’s values of bringing unity, hope and joy to our audiences through our work. All of our productions are prepared from the original texts, but edited down to around two hours and fifteen minutes playing time. The spectacular costumes that we design and make for our productions at our Auckland HQ are a careful mixture of historical accuracy and deliberate anachronism. We want our audiences to remember their Pop-up Globe experience for the rest of their lives. No one makes Shakespeare like Pop-up Globe.
Theatre shows and Shakespeare sometimes acquire an air of elitism around them due to the price of tickets and the formality of the theatre venue – is this something Pop-up Globe is attempting to combat, and if so, how?
As a theatre-maker for over twenty years, I think one of the greatest barriers to participation in the arts is high ticket prices. The wonderful thing about Pop-up Globe is that over a third of the tickets to the theatre are priced at under $30 AUS. And that ticket gets you an all-singing, all-dancing professional cast of fifteen professional actors and musicians. At the other end of the spectrum, if you wish to, you can pay a fortune to sit in the most prestigious seats in the theatre. Ultimately, everyone in the theatre has a great experience, no matter where they’re sitting – no one is more than fifteen metres away from the stage. In this sense, Pop-up Globe brings audiences from every walk of life together for an unforgettable shared experience. And to me, that’s exactly what good theatre should do.
The Pop-Up Globe Theatre will be running shows in Perth from the 9th of October. Student priced tickets are available, and can be purchased here: https://popupglobe.com.au/
Pelican would like to extend thanks to Dr Gregory for his time in this interview.
Interview by Cate Tweedie.