Beyond the smell of faeces on the streets, the presence of myriad air-borne diseases and a cruel and unusual legal system, stepping a few hundred years into the past for just a couple of hours would be a pretty sensational experience.
Well, a to-scale replica of the second Globe Theatre (1614) erected in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death is about as close as it gets for the playwright’s fans, and it's popped up right in Auckland city (and, as an added bonus, it also comes without all the nasties mentioned previously). The masterminds behind the Pop-up Globe have themselves labelled the experience as something akin to time travel, and given that tickets are selling like hot cakes, it fits with a recent shift in spending behaviour, where consumers are increasingly spending more on experiences over material items.
While many people would label a project on scale with the Pop-up Globe as being impossible, its founders Dr. Miles Gregory and Tobias Grant took a chance, and turned their vision into a reality.
The idea of the Pop-up Globe began forming because of a wish of Gregory’s young daughter a couple of years ago. As he was reading her a pop-up storybook, which contained a pop-up Globe Theatre, she asked him “Daddy, can we go there?” to which he responded, “Well London is a very, very long way away darling. I don’t think we’ll get there anytime soon”.
But, the seed was planted. “The idea stuck with me,” says Gregory. “The idea of a pop-up Globe. And here we are a couple of years later sitting in a pop-up Globe, which has been an incredible journey.”
At the Pop-up Globe, for about 10 weeks will be a series of Shakespeare plays, all the favourites. The gala opening was last night and tonight is the first performance of Romeo and Juliet.
“One thing that is wonderful about Pop-up Globe is we are going to be presenting one of the largest festivals of Shakespeare in Australasian history. There’s a total of eight full-scale productions happening on the stage here ranging from Henry VIII to Hamlet, as well as our own production of Twelfth Night and Romeo and Juliet.”
So here’s the rundown on the Pop-up Globe. As mentioned, it is an exact replica of the second Globe Theatre built in 1614, down to the inch, according to Gregory. It took an enormous team of about 2,000 people to bring it to life, no easy feat, he says. The project is costing about half a million funded by a consortium of sponsors and private backers.
“It’s a Kiwi project, born here in New Zealand and it uses Australian research from Sydney University to recreate exactly the dimensions of the second Globe Theatre, something that has never been done before,” he says.
“And working with our amazing construction partners, scaffolding company Camelspace, we have actually been able to get those dimensions right within inches. So when you walk in here you know you are seeing exactly the same dimensions as Shakespeare himself saw on the South Bank of London 400 years ago.”
The erecting of the Pop-up Globe was a “small miracle”, he says. “The Pop-Up Globe took just 35 days … Building a 900-seat theatre to these incredible designs, and we are incredibly lucky to be working with Camelspace ... Bringing this to life took a lot of vision on their part too so we have been lucky in all the partners we have worked with.”
Source: Pop-up Globe website.
He says himself and the team worked as hard as they could to make the experience for visitors as close as it would be for those visiting The Globe a few hundred years ago.
“Just like the original theatre, half of the building is uncovered and open to the elements. In Shakespeare’s day it wouldn’t be covered so that light could enter the stage, because of course they didn’t have electricity about 400 years ago,” he says.
“It’s actually part of the experience of Pop-up Globe that you are in contact with the elements and Shakespeare’s plays are all about nature, they’re all about the world around us and how we inhabit the world around us. And so when you’re standing in the yard as a groundling, and those are the actual people who are really sort of exposed to the weather, you do get the odd bit it of rain, the dropping of gentle dew from heaven, you might say,” he says.
Many female parts are also played by men, as women weren't allowed on-stage in Shakespeare's day.
And going back to the idea of the value of experience, Gregory says there are 20,000 school children who will be visiting the Pop-up Globe from Whangerei down to Christchurch.
“The project is going to have a transformative legacy on the way Shakespeare is understood and experienced in New Zealand and I think there is something amazing about a project that unites so many young people with an experience they will remember for the rest of their lives,” he says.
“A common, shared experience that they all had and even in fifty years’ time they’ll still be saying ‘Did you go to the Pop-up Globe?’ and I think that’s a pretty amazing thing to be part of.”
He says tickets have been selling fast. “I was told yesterday by our publicist that we sold more tickets than AC/DC. A lot of nights are becoming sold out. We have sold a huge quantity of tickets … so fast we can’t really keep up.”
As of October last year, 15,000 tickets had already been sold.
The chief executive of the US National Retail Federation said at Retail NZ's shop.kiwi event earlier this week that there’s been a shift to more experiential spending, rather than spending on material goods, according to The Register.
One of the things that he said was different post-recession was the way people look at discretionary retail purchases.
“They’re spending less on what we would consider to be traditional retail, such as the apparel category, and spending much, much more on experiences.
“So we’ve seen over the holiday quarter and into the coming year people are going to be devoting more of their discretionary spending to travel and leisure and hospitality, and the experiential kinds of spending, as opposed to material acquisition we saw in the middle-2000s in the run up to the recession.”
The change is being spearheaded by a generation of new spenders, he says.
“The young people of today, or tomorrow’s real consumers over the long-term, just don’t think of things the same way.”
Source: The Register
And so how are the organisers marketing this experience?
Well, Gregory says the Pop-up Globe itself is doing a pretty good job is doing a pretty good job of marketing itself.
“Well at the top of the Pop-up Globe is this incredible green onion dome that was there on the original second Globe Theatre,” he says. “We’re not sure what the purpose of the onion dome was on the second Globe theatre but here at the Pop-up Globe, the onion dome has been a kind of signature element that has drawn eyes from around the city.”
But, of course there’s been more activity than that. The team behind it have been very active over social, they’ve created video content, created a campaign and of course the media have been all over it (including us).
What advice would Gregory pass on to anyone else considering a project on this scale, we wondered.
“I think you only get one shot at life. If people have a dream, a vision, they should stop talking about it and start doing it. Because it’s only by taking that first step that you get to the end of the road. So we could have talked about this project endlessly, but you’ve just got to get on with it and see what happens. Dream big.”
And would Gregory consider a project of this kind of undertaking again?
“Maybe ask me that question in a week’s time when I’ve had a bit more sleep.”