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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Shakespeare Globe's Dominic Dromgoole Muse of Fire Interview

I just watched a great interview with Dominic Dromgoole, the Artistic Director for Shakespeare's Globe theatre.

You can see it on the Globe Player -- here.

The documentary is part of the fantastic Shakespeare documentary, Muse of Fire -- which you can view on demand -- here.

Dominic Dromgoole at the Globe

Dominic Dromgoole is only the second Artistic Director since the Globe was established, after Mark Rylance (my thoughts on his own Muse of Fire interview here) and his efforts have made the Globe the largest Shakespeare organisation in the world, and he has brought it to new heights of success.

One of the greatest innovations from Dromgoole's Globe is the series of plays that have been filmed at the Globe, for distribution on DVD and in cinemas across the world. These are some of the very finest Shakespeare productions, and it is a real joy to see them, and watch them again and again.

You can see the Globe DVD shop -- here.

Or you can watch the plays on demand at the Globe Player -- here.

Roger Allam as Falstaff with Jamie Parker as Prince Hal
in Dominic Dromgoole's Henry IV

In this interview he talks about how he becomes "drenched in Shakespeare" while working at the Globe, and how overwhelming it can be to consider the history of Shakespeare, the history of how the plays have been performed, and all the academic work dedicated to Shakespeare.

Therefore, in order to make new productions of Shakespeare's plays, he has to be "brutally practical" and just get on with the job.

I thought it was interesting how he approaches each play, as if it is a newly written work, and he has to willfully ignore everything else.

It's very funny how he describes King Lear as if it was a brand new play -- a little rough, a little messy, but full of genius. Hilarious!

His approach to making the play modern, and accessible to a modern audience, is very interesting. I wish he had said more about this. 

Adetomiwa Edun as Romeo and Ellie Kendrick as Juliet, 2009

He is fascinated by the Globe itself, and he says that when they approach a play, often the theatre space itself helps to understand how the play should be performed, and gives him insights into why Shakespeare wrote the play and what the play means.

He also says that the theatre space emphasizes the audience.

This is a very important insight of his. When we see Shakespeare on screen, or in other theatres (especially when there are no lights in the audience, and the actors cannot see the people for whom they perform) we are disconnected from the play. There is a wall between us and the play. It is just not the same.

At the Globe, the audience is lit, and can be seen by the actors. The audience can also see how the rest of the audience reacts to the play. This creates an important connection between the audience and the performers.

There is more that can be done to bring the audience into the action, and I do hope that Mr. Dromgoole will continue to push the envelope.

Jamie Parker as Henry V,  2012

In his excellent Henry V (my review here) with Jamie Parker, there are moments when the audience is involved with the actors, and the action of the stage bleeds into the yard. 

These are great moments, but there should be far more. 

For example, in Act 3 Scene 7, when the Dauphin and Orleans, and the other French are gathered the night before the battle, there is a missed opportunity. 

There is really only one reason for these French characters to be on stage, as they brag about how they have the best armour and best horses, and how the English should "run away."

The reason for this scene is for the audience to hiss at them. 

Shakespeare's Elizabethan audience would have cursed them, and booed them, and thrown whatever they had -- apple cores, oyster shells -- at these arrogant Frenchmen.

Shakespeare must have realized that this moment is too good to do just once -- so he added another shorter scene, Act 4 Scene 2 -- which gave the audience yet another chance to vent their spleen at the French.

The productions of Shakespeare directed by Dominic Dromgoole are some of the very finest I have ever seen. He is clearly a very serious student of human behaviour, and his productions are very large-hearted. 

He reminds me of Frank Capra, whose attention to supporting characters are as important, perhaps even more important, as the leading characters. 

James Stewart's George Bailey, in It's A Wonderful Life, could not move you to tears of joy or sadness if it weren't for all of the other supporting characters.

Sam Cox as Pistol and Brendan O'Hea as Fluellen

Olivia Ross as Katherine, with Jamie Parker

When I watched Mr. Dromgoole's Henry V, he gave as much care and attention to Brendan O'Hea's Fluellen, Brid Brennan's Chorus, Sam Cox's Pistol, and Olivia Ross's Katherine, as he did to Jamie Parker's King Henry. 

This is unfortunately a rare talent to balance all of these characters, so we should consider ourselves very fortunate to have Mr. Dromgoole to interpret these plays, and as the custodian of the Globe.

I hope you watch this great interview, and continue to watch the other interviews produced for Muse of Fire, by Giles Terera and Dan Poole.


David B. Schajer

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Tom Hiddleston interview

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