It goes without saying that not all beloved businesses and locales will still be open once we get back into the world at large. Small restaurants are shuttering up, galleries are completely reliant on online exhibits, and theatres are cancelling their summer seasons and beyond. While it might first seem that it’s smaller, independent companies that would be taking the most critical hits, some iconic institutions are struggling more than ever in our current climate- namely, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre faces potential closure.
It comes as no surprise that a lot of major theatres are unsure how to stay afloat currently. While the Globe and countless other theatre companies are using this time to pump out streams of their previous shows, it is hard to drive donations completely remotely, and especially when so much of the global populace is struggling with their own income. And for the small to mid-sized theatres hearing that the Globe Theatre faces potential closure, it’s hard not to worry all the more whether they themselves will be facing a final curtain.
The Globe has had a fraught history- the current Globe Theatre in fact not being built until the turn of the 21st century. In 1599, the Globe Theatre was built for and by Shakespeare’s theatre company from the remnants of a previous theatre. It served as the home for the troupe for many years, but in 1613 the playhouse went up in flames due to a misfiring stage cannon during Henry VIII. The theatre was rebuilt the following year, just two years before Shakespeare would pass away. However, its future was not endlessly bright, as it was closed down and destroyed by Puritans in the 1640s, alongside the rest of London’s theatres. The Globe that stands today is officially titled Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and is a replication of the original theatre based on official documents, and has been running since 1997.
It’s no great stretch to say that the Globe is an icon in the international theatre community, and that the news of the theatre’s struggle has been met with a lot of concern. Besides their own call for donations, a 48-hour “readathon” is happening now for the benefit of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Put together by a group of former students of the legendary theatre, the majority of the Bard’s repertoire is being streamed by readers through the group’s YouTube page, Read for The Globe. Through an exchange on the group’s Twitter account, they stated the theatre “needs to be 80% full to function profitably”- a tall order for even the most legendary theatre night after night, and a telling figure for just how hard the lockdown must currently be hitting them.
Theatre spaces in general find it harder and harder to hold their ground, and especially larger, extravagant theatres of yesteryear that haven’t updated the way they utilize their space continue to feel the emptiness of their sprawling seats. Many of these gorgeous, spacious creations are gaping rosewood and velvet mouths that swallow up as much money as the public throws into it. It can be a prickly subject to discuss, but there is something to be said about how much money goes into these grand theatres when the funding is used up as quickly as it appeared, and how much good all of that income could be for a more pared down space, or for a host of smaller independent venues that seek to cultivate new works. It’s of course situational, and a lot of stimulation surely comes to London solely from this theatrical mecca, and knowing the Globe Theatre faces potential closure during this time is definitely heartbreaking. But it does rear the question: is it the end for big theatres?