As previously tipped (See The Goss, 10 Jan 2005), new work will take centre stage this summer at Shakespeare’s Globe with two world premieres of plays by Howard Brenton and Simon Bent completing the inaugural season of Dominic Dromgoole, who succeeds founding artistic director Mark Rylance this month (See News, 20 May 2005).

In the 2006 summer schedule, running from 5 May to 8 October at the open air Bankside venue, Bent’s Under the Black Flag and Brenton’s In Extremis will run in repertory with four Shakespeare plays under the collective theme “The Edges of Rome”: Coriolanus, Titus Andronicus, Antony and Cleopatra and The Comedy of Errors.

In future years, Dromgoole plans to swing even more in favour of new work, with fully half of the annual programme of six productions being premieres. He has already commissioned Jack Shepherd to create a new piece for the 2007 season and is in talks with Debbie Tucker Green and many other contemporary dramatists about writing plays for the space.

At a press conference held this afternoon at the theatre to announce the new season, Dromgoole explained why he thinks it’s “vital” that new work be staged at the historic landmark. Based on the body of work premiered there by Shakespeare, as well as his contemporaries, between 1599 and 1640, the Globe, he said, qualifies “the greatest writers’ theatre of all time bar none”. He continues: “I’m very keen that writers become part of the bloodstream again here and that they rub up against Shakespeare directly.”

Dromgoole – who has not directed Shakespeare for six years (prior to his Globe appointment, he was best known for championing new work at the Bush and rediscovering modern classics with Oxford Stage Company) - will helm two of the bard’s plays this summer. Although under his regime, the theatre will not be adhering as rigidly to the “original practices” aesthetic of Rylance, Dromgoole has ruled out presenting modern-dress Shakespeare on the Globe stage. Productions this year will simply “employ” Jacobean or Elizabethan staging, clothing and music according to “the demands of the play”.

Roman scheduling

The season kicks off with Shakespeare’s “thrilling political play” Coriolanus, which Dromgoole will direct - “I’ll be first over the parapet,” he joked today. Designed by Mike Britton (Comfort Me with Apples, Walk Hard), it runs from 10 May to 13 August 2006 (previews from 5 May).

It’s joined in repertory, from 30 May to 6 October 2006 (previews from 20 May), by Titus Andronicus. One of Shakespeare’s earliest and bloodiest plays, Dromgoole describes the piece as the bard’s “first smash hit” and declared “there is nothing as extreme, as grotesque, as macabre to match it” – the in-yer-face dramas of the 1990s being “small beer” by comparison. The production will be directed by Lucy Bailey, who has previously directed The Maids’ Tragedy and As You Like It at the Globe and whose more recent credits include Comfort Me with Apples, The Postman Always Rings Twice and The Night Season. It’s designed by Rae Smith (nominated for a Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Award for Theatre of Blood and Pillars of the Community).

The third production in the season - and the second directed by Dromgoole, who calls it “one of the greatest middle-aged love stories of all time” - will be Antony and Cleopatra. Running 5 July to 8 October 2006 (previews from 25 June), it will also be designed by Mike Britton. The fourth Shakespeare, directed by Christopher Luscombe and running 1 August to 7 October 2007 (previews from 22 July), will be The Comedy of Errors.

Bent’s Under the Black Flag, which has the unwieldy subtitle “The Early Life, Adventures and Pyracies (sic) of the Famous Long John Silver before he lost his leg”, receives its world premiere on 18 July 2006 (previews from 9 July) and continues in rep until 12 August. Set around the 17th-century pirate republic of Rabat, it centres on John Silver and his crew of disaffected political radicals. The production – which is directed by Paines Plough artistic director Roxana Silbert and designed by Laura Hopkins – carries a warning that it “features bare flesh and filthy language”. Bent’s previous plays include The Associate and Accomplices.

The final play in the 2006 season will be Brenton’s In Extremis, based on the 12th-century French story of the love affair between Abelard and Heloise and running from 5 September to 7 October 2006 (previews from 27 August). Brenton is most famous as the author of The Romans in Britain, which is revived next month at Sheffield Crucible. His other plays include Pravda (co-written with David Hare) and, currently at the National, Paul.

The director and designer for In Extremis have yet to be confirmed, as does any casting for the season though Dromgoole shared today that “two or three pleasingly juicy names” are about to sign up to appear in the summer’s programme.

- by Terri Paddock