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Some of the reaction to Emma Rice’s ousting by the Globe

My first gut response to yesterday’s news that Emma Rice was leaving Shakespeare’s Globe, announced after less than a year – and only one summer season in post – was simply “Oh my God!”. In my years of commenting on theatre, I have never been as shocked by the news of someone’s leaving a job – and in such a seemingly shabby manner (with the exception, for very personal reasons, of course, of my own departure from WhatsOnStage).

It was so oddly delivered too. First into the email inbox was a fairly standard-issue season announcement with the subject heading “Shakespeare’s Globe announces Emma Rice’s 2017 summer season ‘Summer of Love'”, which begins by saying that the Globe “is delighted to announce” Rice’s second season. No mention that it would also be her last. A minute later, a second email from the Globe’s press office with the innocuous heading “Statement Regarding the Artisitic Direction of Shakespeare’s Globe”.

It was this statement that caused, according to some commentators, “theatre’s own Brexit”. I tweeted the news, including the bizarre statement from Globe CEO Neil Constable (someone I know and like, for the record) which, on the one hand, praised Rice’s “mould-breaking” and “visionary” work which had already yielded “exceptionally strong box office returns”, but on the other concluded, that was quite enough of such experimentation and, after she leaves, there will be no more of that.

I soon found that my shock was widely shared. My tweet prompted a barrage of shocked, angry, outraged replies, and I was soon after rung by the Guardian for a comment.

I do not know what has gone on behind closed doors at the Globe, but the speed with which the theatre’s much-heralded new hire has been abandoned does smack of something unfair, unjust and, yes, sexist. Whether a male director would or would not have been doubted and dismissed so quickly – and in the Guardian interview, I drew comparisons with the dismal, critically panned first season of Kevin Spacey who, nevertheless, was allowed to settle in and went on to lead the Old Vic for a decade – it is undoubtedly a tragedy that the first female director of a commercial UK flagship institution of this size has been.

(Rice herself recently spoke out against some of the sexist comments she had received in the post. At that time, she said she was glad that she was not active on social media so didn’t have to see the worst of it. I do hope friends are showing her the best of social media in her defense over the past 24 hours.)

In any case, the situation hasn’t been handled well and, with gathering industry criticism – including from Gregory Doran, artistic director at the Globe’s rival interpreter, the Royal Shakespeare Company (surely, this must be unprecedented) – and backers withdrawing funding, I fear the Globe will have a longer-lasting PR crisis to contend with.

To the theatre’s credit and with my own employment law brought fresh to my mind, I’m glad that they made a joint statement with Emma Rice and that she is being given plenty of notice and time to regroup (she will officially leave the post in April 2018). I hope that all ACAS guidelines have been followed. If Rice might have a case for constructive or unfair dismissal, the potential employment tribunal would make more headlines in this industry than either mine or Mark Shenton‘s did.

Below, I’ve gathered other reports and opinion pieces on yesterday’s news as well as some of the reaction on Twitter.


In the media

Emma Rice to step down as artistic director at Shakespeare's...
Emma Rice, the artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe, is to step down in 2018 after just two years in charge. The theatre announced that it was returning to the stripped-down “shared… (I’m quoted in this one – still a little shell shocked after hearing the news.)
Emma Rice departure: the industry reacts to "backwards step"...
Emma Rice’s announcement that she is to step down as artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe has been met with dismay from arts leaders, who have labelled it a “backwards step” for the…
Emma Rice decision prompts charity to shelve future Globe...
A charity that made its first grants to Shakespeare’s Globe under artistic director Emma Rice’s tenure has revealed it will not give the theatre any more money, and is threatening to…
Natasha Tripney: It's too late to ask if Emma Rice was right...
Gutted. That’s how I and – looking at Twitter – many others felt on hearing that Emma Rice would be stepping down after a dismayingly brief time as artistic director at Shakespeare’s…
Shakespeare's Globe director axed for being too unorthodox
Emma Rice is to step down from her post as artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe in 2018, following an apparent row over the usage of light and sound in the theatre. Rice has served in…
Emma Rice and the Globe: a sorry tale of a theatre lacking in...
In the very short time since her appointment, Emma Rice has made her voice frequently heard. When she launched her first season, just 10 short months ago, she made waves with her comments…
Artistic differences end new artistic vision at The Globe
The Shakespeare’s Globe board has announced that Artistic Director Emma Rice, who joined in April this year, will end her tenure in April 2018. Globe CEO Neil Constable praised Rice’s…
Emma Rice Will Bow Out as Artistic Director of Shakespeare's Globe
Emma Rice Will Bow Out as Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s Globe
LONDON – Emma Rice will leave her position as artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe here in 2018 after a brief stint that has been both celebrated and starkly criticized. Ms. Rice came…
Emma Rice to stand down from the Globe
Emma Rice is to stand down as the artistic director of the Globe theatre in April 2018, after just two years. Rice took her position at the Globe earlier this year, April 2016. She was the…
As Emma Rice departs, the Globe has egg on its face 
As Emma Rice departs, the Globe has egg on its face
The news that artistic director Emma Rice will be leaving Shakespeare’s Globe in 2018 after just two seasons – including a critically acclaimed first season that delivered exceptionally…
Emma Rice leaving the Globe: All is not what it seems
Emma Rice leaving the Globe: All is not what it seems
One of London’s top theatres sent a rather confusing message to the world today as it appeared to push out its incumbent artistic director for being too forward-thinking. Shakespeare’s…
Exit Emma Rice, and does anyone care?
Exit Emma Rice, and does anyone care?
The exit of Emma Rice from her position as artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe is a happy day for Shakespeare and a happy day for the Globe. Rice – for those who haven’t followed her…
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