University research sets the stage for Sydney Shakespeare season

15 June 2018
A full-scale replica of the second Globe Theatre is set to offer an authentic Shakespeare experience for Sydney theatregoers - including for the University of Sydney academics whose research led to the reconstruction.
Wenceslaus Hollar's sketch of the Globe. Image: Yale Center for British Art, courtesy Tim Fitzpatrick.

Wenceslaus Hollar's sketch of the Globe. Image: Yale Center for British Art, courtesy Tim Fitzpatrick.

In 2016, University research into William Shakespeare's second Globe theatre led to the world’s first faithful reconstruction in New Zealand. Now, following a successful season in Melbourne last year, a full-scale replica of the Globe is set to pop up in Sydney.

Pop-up Globe will open at the Entertainment Quarter, Moore Park this September, with performances of four of Shakespeare’s best-known plays – A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merchant of Venice, Macbeth and The Comedy of Errors.

The three-storey, 900-person capacity replica theatre is based on the research of Tim Fitzpatrick, Honorary Associate Professor from the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies, who spent years studying the second Globe Theatre, which was built by William Shakespeare and his company on the burnt-out foundations of the first Globe in 1614.

Based on his research, Associate Professor Fitzpatrick collaborated with Russell Emerson, Technical Director and Honorary Associate of the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies, to generate detailed computer-aided design plans for the original 17th century building.

The second Globe theatre as envisioned by renowned Czech panoramist Wenceslaus Hollar. Image: Tim Fitzpatrick.

The second Globe theatre as envisioned by renowned Czech panoramist Wenceslaus Hollar. Image: Tim Fitzpatrick.

These plans were bought to life by Auckland-based theatre company Pop-Up Globe – originally for a one-off season to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death in 2016, which expanded into two further seasons in Auckland, due to popular demand, and an additional season in Melbourne in 2017.

“It’s wonderful to see a full-scale reconstruction of the playhouse you’ve theorised, particularly in your home town,” Associate Professor Fitzpatrick said.

“My research on the second Globe germinated on a long-haul flight back to Sydney – I was returning from a visit to the London Globe, and came to the jetlagged conclusion that it was simply way too big: I couldn’t believe Shakespeare’s company of actors would have designed a space so difficult to work in.

“So with invaluable assistance from Russell Emerson I set about reinterpreting the primary evidence to come up with an alternative design. Sydney is where the 10 years of research was done, so it’s both fitting and exciting to have the playhouse we theorised erected here.

“But the building’s just a start – it’s another thing entirely to experience amazing productions in it. The four productions Pop-up Globe is bringing to Sydney are of the highest quality, and fully exploit the resources and special actor-audience relationship of the space we believe Shakespeare and his actors worked in. I’ve seen a lot of productions in reconstructed Elizabethan theatres, and these are the best I’ve ever seen.”

Associate Professor Fitzpatrick said Pop-up Globe had created a whole new audience for Shakespeare and had generated overwhelmingly positive responses, particularly from young people.

“It is immensely satisfying to see young people, despite their enervating experiences of Shakespeare in their high school syllabus, finally ‘getting’ what all the fuss is about,” he said.

“The productions are wonderful, but I suspect that even if they weren’t the audience would still go away stimulated and satisfied – simply because their theatre experience isn’t confined to what happens onstage. What they experience instead is what it feels like to be physically enveloped by the world of the play: the whole theatre is lit, everyone is part of the event ­– whether it’s a comedy or a tragedy.”

Magical fantasy A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be the first Shakespearean play staged in the Pop-up Globe theatre in Sydney, which will welcome audiences in September and October.

Just a few days before the Pop-up Globe welcomes audiences in Sydney, Sydney Ideas will present a free panel discussion with the team behind the innovative project. Professor Fitzpatrick will summarise the University team’s research, Miles Gregory will give an overview of the Popup Globe enterprise so far, and prominent New Zealand actress Amanda Billing will offer first-hand insights into acting in this unique space.

Jennifer Peterson-Ward

Senior Manager, Strategic Communications and Engagement

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