Democracy on stage sounds good but I still prefer someone in charge

William Moore
William Moore

“Let your own discretion be your tutor.” So Hamlet instructs his actors before they set out to catch the conscience of his uncle. It may not, in fact, be good advice.

There is much buzz in theatreland about Michelle Terry’s actor-led approach to As You Like It and Hamlet, the first two shows in her debut season as the Globe’s artistic director. While there are two directors credited, Federay Holmes and Elle While, the ensemble was encouraged to have collective ownership over the production. Almost every decision was apparently made together over the course of the long rehearsal process, from the casting to the costumes.

The purpose of all this was, in Terry’s words, to “dismantle the triangle of hierarchy that is part of our culture”. Even before the shows opened last Thursday the approach was praised by many as democratic, egalitarian and inclusive. But does it pay off?

It’s an intriguing experiment. And if it could work anywhere then it would surely be at the Globe, since one could argue that it harks back to the ensemble tradition of Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre companies.

But the result is, I’m afraid to say, rudderless. At times it is sloppy. “Unhand me, gentlemen!” cries Hamlet to Horatio and Marcellus, yet their hands were by their sides.

Even if you were one of the purists who hated every show by Terry’s predecessor, Emma Rice (I found some of her decisions bonkers fun, others bewildering and cringe-worthy), at least it was always her singular, bold vision.

Some degree of collaboration is, of course, desirable and inevitable in theatre. But at some point someone needs to be able to put their foot down and make key decisions.

“Along with the audience, we are all figuring it out together,” Terry concludes in her programme. A noble idea, sure. But I would have preferred it if someone in charge tried figuring it out beforehand.

Please keep your Brexit promise, Ken

Whenever Ken Livingstone reappears on our TV screens like a recurring Doctor Who baddie, I like to remind readers of a comment he made in 2016. During the Referendum campaign Livingstone said that if the UK voted for Brexit he would emigrate.

What a boost for Vote Leave. Now, finally, his huffy resignation from the Labour Party over another comment from the same year (you may have read about that one?) shows it’s never too late for your words to catch up with you.

Let’s book him a seat on the next plane to Venezuela to remind him of his promises.

Say hello to the new stars of Scandi-pop

Back in January, Norwegian pop star Sigrid won the BBC’s Sound of 2018 poll for her summer smash Don’t Kill My Vibe, making her the first non-American or non-British winner in the poll’s 16-year history. Maybe it’s a coincidence but her deserved victory seems to have ushered in a new wave of Scandipop appreciation.

Fellow-Norwegian Susanne Sundfør played the Barbican last week to great acclaim and Aurora (who shot to fame for her Oasis cover in the 2015 John Lewis Christmas ad) headlines Shepherd’s Bush Empire next month.

Norwegian pop star Sigrid (Francesca Allen)

But it’s the Swedes who have the strongest foothold in 2018 so far. Zara Larsson made Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list; Lykke Li, Tove Styrke and Seinabo Sey all released cracking new songs; and we have a debut album from wannabe-shocking Ängie (whose 2016 anthem Smoke Weed Eat P***y is a trash classic in the making, perfect for first dances at weddings, I feel).

Don’t kill my vibe, indeed.

Watch this space at Venice Biennale

This year’s Venice Architecture Biennale opens on Saturday. For the British Pavilion, Caruso St John, the architectural practice behind Damien Hirst’s superb Newport Street Gallery, has teamed up with the sculptor Marcus Taylor to present an unusual entry.

It’s opening up the rooftop with a high-level observation platform, leaving the interior below empty as a symbol of climate change, colonialism, Brexit, isolation and sanctuary. “It is elusive, and you can project different meanings on to it,” says Adam Caruso. Too elusive? We’ll soon see whether it is, literally, a whole lot of nothing.