Announcing further details to the outline of his third season as artistic director of the Globe (See News, 27 Nov 2007), Dominic Dromgoole said at a press briefing today that David Calder would play the title role in his production of King Lear, opening 2 May 2008 (previews from 23 April, Shakespeare’s Birthday).

Calder has played both Shylock and Prospero for the RSC and is well known for his television role as Dr Robert Bramwell in the series Bramwell. The production will employ Renaissance staging and costumes designed by Jonathan Fensom, with a score by Claire van Kampen, who both worked with Dromgoole on last year’s Love’s Labour’s Lost.

In addition to the already announced revivals of A Midsummer Night's Dream (opening 21 May, with previews from 10 May), directed by Jonathan Munby, The Merry Wives of Windsor (18 June, previews from 8 June), directed by Christopher Luscombe, and Timon of Athens (6 August, previews from 26 July), directed by Lucy Bailey, Dromgoole announced that Footsbarn Theatre would present the world premiere of A Shakespeare Party for three days from 23 May.

Footsbarn, described by Dromgoole as “the parents of Complicite and the grandparents of Kneehigh,” have not been seen in London for fifteen years and Dromgoole treasured a memory of a five-hour Hamlet they produced with a gravediggers’ scene that lasted for half that running time. Casting for The Merry Wives so far includes RSC veteran Christopher Benjamin as Falstaff, Serena Evans as Mistress Page, Sarah Woodward as Mistress Ford and Sue Wallace as Mistress Quickly.

The Globe is also touring last year’s Romeo and Juliet between May and August, with a European tour to follow and possible visits to New Zealand and the United States; and John Dove’s new production of The Winter’s Tale between June and September.

As already announced, the season includes two new plays: The Frontline by Che Walker (6 July to 17 August) and Liberty by Glyn Maxwell (31 August to 4 October, then touring). Dromgoole said that all five new plays he had presented at the Globe had gone down “stonkingly well” with the audience even when not well received by the critics. He said that on the last night of Jack Shepherd’s Holding Fire last season, the veteran Labour MP Tony Benn had made a rousing speech from the stage in the spirit of that play’s celebration of political radicalism in the Chartist movement.

Che Walker said that the idea for his new play had come to him while waiting for a night bus in Camden Town and surveying the “Hogarthian” scene on the street around him. He wrote the play by hand, upstairs in the Globe, while appearing as a senator in Venice and a soldier in Cyprus in last season’s production of Othello. His cast of characters would include political activists, strippers, heroin addicts and a hot dog salesman, and director Matthew Dunster’s company would include many new young actors, as well as some from the King Lear cast.

Before the announcement, Dominic Dromgoole led journalists on a guided tour of the reconfigured exhibition area below the theatre, reminding us that it had been initially designed in the full expectation that the theatre itself, which does not receive public subsidy, would be an economic disaster. “The miracle of this place,” said Dromgoole, “is that it hasn’t worked out like that. The theatre is the economic engine, and we are now entering a new phase where we can celebrate the Globe being here; it’s one of the most exciting theatres for actors to play in, they love it, and the audience does, too.”

Dromgoole explained that the neutrality of the colour in the auditorium – which has seats for 900 and standing room for 600 -- was not “very Elizabethan” and he is hoping to change that soon, starting with the four “gentlemen’s boxes” on either side of the stage which are about to be redecorated.

Other changes include a new restaurant team with a bar which is now, says Dromgoole, “a great place to make merry in,” and a Shakespearean library donated by the American John Wolfson. Funds are still pending to complete work on the small interior theatre on the site, currently known as the Inigo Jones, but more likely to be re-named the Burbage after the recent scholarship.

- by Michael Coveney