It is difficult for people to remember that English theatre used to be about touring and nothing else. Theatre buildings are the newcomers in our theatre culture. Before the construction of the Rose and the Globe all our dramatic experiences were about companies trucking up to strange towns, and performing plays in inn yards, in churches, in guildhalls, in fairs and at any other number of strange venues under the canopy of the sky.
Touring was in Shakespeare’s blood and in the blood of the company of actors he worked with. They had toured before they formed a company at the Globe, and they continued to do so after they were established. In part this was an emergency measure – when the theatres had to close due to plague or the opprobrium of the city fathers, then they could take a show out on the road. But there were also powerful economic reasons – touring made money, and was a good way to recycle work that had succeeded in London.
It was with great pride that we resurrected this tradition in summer 2007 after a 400-year break, taking a scaled-down, touring production of Romeo and Juliet out from the Globe. Since then our tours have gone from strength to strength and for the second year running we are touring on a large and a small scale.
King Lear launches the season at the Theatre Royal Margate, and visits 18 venues in the UK, Turkey, Rumania, Austria, Germany and Denmark between April and August, stopping off at the Globe in May. The Taming of the Shrew takes up the story in June, opening at Portsmouth and moving on to a host of beautiful, historically resonant settings throughout the UK and then on to Malta, Austria, Hong Kong and Singapore. Lear and The Shrew will be performed on Elizabethan-style booth stages, giving us the versatility enjoyed by Shakespeare’s own company and enabling us to perform in the most diverse locations.
And in midsummer the three plays which make up Henry VI, Shakespeare’s most unabashed celebration of pure story, open at York Theatre Royal and go on to visit not just a series of major theatres throughout the UK, but also four battlefields associated with the plays before playing at the Globe for the first time.
Thank you for joining the fun.
By Dominic Dromgoole, Artistic Director
This piece first appeared in the tours programme, available from the Globe shop.
In addition we will be producing site-specific performances of Harry the Sixth, The Houses of York & Lancaster and The True Tragedy of the Duke of York; staged at historic battle sites of the Wars of the Roses. All three plays will be performed in one day.
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Follow the productions on Twitter (@The_Globe). Look out for the following hashtags:
King Lear #LearOnTour
The Taming of the Shrew #ShrewOnTour
Henry VI #HenryVI