Actors rehears Henry V in the full-scale recreation of the Globe Theatre in Melbourne. (ABC News: Stephanie Ferrier)
It’s the stuff that theatregoers’ dreams are made of: experiencing one of William Shakespeare’s plays in a theatre the Bard would feel right at home in.
Now Melburnian Shakespeare enthusiasts have the chance to step back in time, when they step into a full-scale recreation of the Globe Theatre that has sprung up just behind the Sidney Myer Music Bowl.
About 120 workers have toiled around the clock putting the finishing touches on the three-storey, 100-tonne, 900-person theatre ahead of its official opening next Thursday, following a successful debut season in Auckland.
It is the world’s first full-scale temporary working replica of one of the greatest theatres in history.
“The theatre is visually stunning, the acoustic is unparalleled, the performances are Shakespeare — like a party,” said Miles Gregory, the founder and artistic director.
“I think theatregoers are going to be surprised and delighted by this extraordinary experience.
“They can expect to see epic battles, litres of blood, hilarious comedy, gods flying from the heavens, explosions and above all amazing songs and dances.
“This is not dusty, old Shakespeare … it’s very much now and alive — but drawing inspiration from how these plays must have been performed 400 years ago.”
The Melbourne season will include plays: Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, As You Like It and Henry V. (ABC News: Stephanie Ferrier)
The pop-up theatre has been painstakingly re-created using drawings and structural designs of Shakespeare’s second Globe Theatre, which was built after the original building burnt down in 1613.
“Shakespeare and his company immediately rebuilt the Globe but rebuilt it using all the knowledge they’d gained from working 14 years at the first Globe,” Dr Gregory said.
“[This recreation] is like a time machine. Getting back into this theatre makes you understand why Shakespeare’s plays achieved the global currency they have.”
Artistic director Miles Gregory says the replica theatre is like going back in a time machine. (ABC News: Stephanie Ferrier)
While remaining faithful to the original design, the theatre does include a few practical modern touches, such as basic lighting and nearby toilet facilities.
It also includes the original Shakespeare pit on ground level where theatregoers are called “groundlings” and Dr Gregory warned they could even become “part of the action”.
“When you are in the pit you are literally inches away from what is happening on stage,” he said.
“It is energising and immense fun.”
Chris Huntly-Turner, an actor performing in Henry V, said performing in the replica Globe was an “amazing privilege”.
“It’s closer to a footy match than a piece of theatre, it’s fantastic having this entire building full of people screaming and yelling and booing … covered in blood and cheering you on,” he said.
Audience members close to the stage have been warned they could become “part of the action”. (ABC News: Stephanie Ferrier)
Dr Gregory said he always wanted to bring the pop-up theatre to Melbourne.
“Melbourne is the southern hemisphere’s capital of arts and culture and it’s without doubt the natural place for this kind of project,” he said.
“We’re working in our company with actors from Melbourne who are thrilled to bringing this to their home town and we know people here have embraced pop-up Globe already as we’ve sold over 40,000 tickets before we’ve even opened.”
The Melbourne season will include four Shakespeare plays: Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, As You Like It and Henry V, as well as a specially commissioned new show, Around the Globe in 60 Minutes!, telling the story of the second Globe Theatre.
The director of Much Ado About Nothing, Miriama McDowell, said while she first experienced the thrill of performing in the pop-up Globe as an actor in Auckland, the move to directing has been even more fulfilling.
“It’s amazing because you understand the life of [Shakespeare’s] work doesn’t end at the end of the stage … it transfers right into the yard and up into the sky, and the connection with the audience is like no other space you could ever work in as an actor or as a director,” she said.
“You really can feel the blood of that man pumping through the scaffolds, it’s pretty incredible.”
The Melbourne season runs until November 12 and half-price preview performances will begin on Thursday.