Pop-up Globe: bringing old theatre to a new audience

The Globe Theatre is one of the biggest tourist attractions in London, the home of productions of works of the greatest ever playwright, William Shakespeare.

Now some of Shakespeare’s classic plays are coming to Sydney, with the Pop-up Globe Theatre under construction in the harbour city. The 16-sided theatre will be in place in Moore Park for six weeks from September 5th, hosting some of the Bard’s masterpieces, such as Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Merchant of Venice. 

Originating in Auckland in 2016, the Pop-up Globe made its Australian debut in Melbourne last year to a rapturous reception, with 250,000 attendees making their way to the event. This year’s Sydney run, in the Entertainment Quarter, promises to be similarly popular, immersing theatre-goers in 16th-century England and providing a fun insight into the  Shakespearean world.

The world’s first full-scale temporary working replica of the second Globe, the theatre which Shakespeare and his company built and opened in 1614 after the first Globe burned to the ground, is coming to Sydney for its second season.

Dr David McInnis, an expert in Shakespearean literature at the University of Melbourne, said the Pop-up Globe offered not only a great emulation of the original’s performances, but also managed to move away from the more traditional trappings of its famous namesake.

“I absolutely loved it,” he said. “It was a welcome breath of fresh air, I thought. It’s not trying to be historically accurate in the same way the Globe in London is, which is trying to be a faithful reconstruction … But it does approximate the size and shape of Shakespeare’s second Globe Theatre, and, more to the point, it tries to capture that vibe of play-going during Shakespeare’s lifetime.”

The pop-up Globe with a full house. (Photo: @PopupGlobeAU)

Shakespeare’s productions at the original Globe were traditionally egalitarian affairs, put on for all members of the public. with an atmosphere to match. Dr McInnis says the Pop-up Globe has managed to capture that raucous atmosphere.

“It’s about as far as possible from that sort of pretentious, stuffy Shakespeare that you might associate with 21st century Royal Shakespeare Company-kind of performances, and it was fun, you know,” he says. “It was like the circus had come to town.”

Shakespeare’s second Globe Theatre is intrinsically linked with the legendary playwright, and a draw for tens of thousands of tourists in London every year.

Damien Ryan, artistic director of The Sydney Hills Shakespeare in the Park, an annual outdoor Shakespearean festival in Sydney’s Hills District, says Shakespeare was a pioneer of theatre-based performances, in part due to simply being born in the right place at the right time.

“Shakespeare was 12 years old in England when the first modern theatre was built in 1576, and by the time he was in his early 20s and had somehow found himself caught up in this dramatic milieu at the time of writers, poets and actors, a series of amazing new buildings that could hold up to 3,000 people had sprung up around his very city,” says Mr Ryan.

Dr McInnis says the travelling Globe will not only be a fun, but also an educational experience. He notes that Shakespeare wrote to be performed, not read, and that productions like the Pop-up Globe’s are in tune with how his plays were meant to be consumed.

The original Globe Theatre in London (Photo: @PopupGlobeAU)

“I think we do him a disservice to simply read the texts in their printed form, as if they were novels, and just dissect them until all the joy’s lost,” he says.

“We really need to experience Shakespeare in a live or recorded environment, as the actors embody the roles and bring them to life.” – @maxgay93