Are you brave enough for our Shakespeare and Fear digital festival?

  Join us this Halloween – if you dare – for a fearful programme of performances, events, exclusive content and workshops, filmed in the shadows of our candlelit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

5 minute read

‘Tis now the very witching time of night, When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out…

Fear weaves its way through Shakespeare’s plays, manifesting as delusion, paranoia and terror. He shows us how the contagion of fear can spread faster than the plague, how it can infect the mind and the body and how it can be used as a pacifying and suppressing power. Shakespeare also shows us that when fear is harnessed, it can offer hope and catharsis – and be transformed into a motivating force for positive action.

Join us in the shadows of our candlelit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse this October for a digital festival of chilling ghost stories, supernatural staged readings and an exploration into the potent nature of fear.

Our second digital festival, Shakespeare and Fear, will be available for all to view around the world, and streams online from 31 October to 9 November 2020.

Text: Shakespeare and Fear, a smoking candle is in the bottom corner

Our second digital festival takes place this October, a fearful programme of performances, events, exclusive content and workshops, filmed in the shadows of our candlelit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.

Tear up the planks! Here, here! It is the beating of his hideous heart!

The Tell-Tale Heart, Edgar Allan Poe

Opening our festival on Halloween with a spine-tingling start is Deep Night, Dark Night – a film of old, new and true ghost stories. Recreate the flickering candlelight of our Playhouse at home and hide under a blanket as you listen to actors Paul Ready and Andrius Gaučas tell the eerie The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe, the haunted 50 Berkeley Square by our writer-in-residence Sami Ibrahim, and the folkloric I am Karyan Ophidian by Abi Zakarian. But be warned – these petrifying tales are not for the faint at heart…

A human face mask appears in the shadows.

Learn how to create stage blood and make-up in our interactive online workshops. Photographer: Marc Brenner.

Have you always wanted to know how we create our severed limbs, cuts and bruises for the stage? Questioned where all that fake blood comes from? Wondered if you can recreate these gruesome delights at home?

Well, you’re in luck! Families can join Katy, our Head of Props, and Pam, Head of Wigs & Make-Up, for an interactive online workshop Secrets of the Stage throughout 31 October. Your little monsters and ghouls can get messy while creating stage blood, stage make-up, gooey eyeballs and more – yuck!

I have supp’d full with horrors

— Macbeth

In 1605, there was a plague. Theatres were closed. In 1606, Shakespeare wrote Macbeth. In 2020, we are living through another plague, the doors to our theatres are closed, and once more we will turn to Shakespeare’s thrilling tragedy.

On 5 November, the company of our 2018 production, including Michelle Terry and Paul Ready, will reunite once more for Macbeth: A Conjuring. A semi-staged reading filmed in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare’s ominous play is the perfect exploration of power, fear, bloody murder and the supernatural – and the tenacious ambition of a despotic leader who will seemingly do anything in the pursuit and maintenance of power.

In 1605 there was a plague. Theatres in London were closed. In 1606 Shakespeare wrote Macbeth. There is not one mention of the plague in Macbeth, but fear is mentioned nearly 50 times. Shakespeare chose not to talk about the virus, but look instead at how dis-ease, doubts, fears and horrible imaginings can infect a mind, a country, a world, and how, out of chaos, instability and disorder, the crisis that emerges becomes an opportunity not only for ruthless ambition and terrorising confusion, but also a catalyst for hope, transformation and positive collective action. With Halloween, Bonfire Night, and the results of an election determining the future of the free world, there feels like no better time to be sharing these stories and having this conversation about the power of insurrection and the potential for resurrection

— Michelle Terry, Artistic Director

Smoke rises from a candle that has recently been extinguished.

In Macbeth, Shakespeare explores how dis-ease, doubts, fears and horrible imaginings can infect a mind.

As well as performances, our Shakespeare and Fear digital festival will also feature discussions and debate that are imperative to the current moment.

What can theatre and literature do to comfort, console or galvanise in the face of fears that seem bigger than ourselves? Leading thinkers, artists and arts leaders, including Professor Bridget Escolme (Professor of Theatre and Performance, Queen Mary’s University) and Stella Kanu (Executive Director at LIFT) join our very own Dr Will Tosh for a panel event In Conversation: Fear in our Moment on 8 November. Together, they’ll explore questions of fear: fear of the pandemic, fear of the direction of politics, fear of recession, as we all find ways to bear with, and build with, our own political and social dreads.

In the aftermath of the American Presidential election and drawing our festival to a close, in Thinking through Crisis: Shakespeare and America, our very own Professor Farah Karim-Cooper, plus Professors Ayanna Thompson (Arizona State University) and James Shapiro (Columbia) examine the dynamic between Shakespeare and social justice, autocracy, race, fear and crisis. Hosted on Zoom, audience members will have the opportunity to ask panelists questions during the event, and the discussion itself will be later shared on our YouTube channel for further viewing.

Two unlit candles in the shadows.

Our Shakespeare and Fear digital festival will also feature discussions and debate that are imperative to the current moment. Photographer: Marc Brenner.

All performances and panel events will be available to watch, wherever you are in the world, for seven days from the initial date of broadcast.

It is important for us that everyone can access and experience our work, regardless of their circumstances. Some events are free to attend, or standard tickets are priced at £15. Concessions tickets are also available for £5.

If you are able to support us further, we kindly ask that you add a donation of £10 or more to your purchase. We are an independent charity and your donations mean that we can continue to support our staff and freelancers in creating digital content and sharing Shakespeare’s gift of stories.

Join us on social media @The_Globe #ShakesFear throughout the festival, as we’ll be sharing ghostly goings on at the Globe, playing a trick or two, and possibly throwing in a couple of treats for good measure.


A great wooden oak door stands ajar.

Do you dare to join us this Halloween? Photographer: Marc Brenner.


Discover all events, content and workshops as part of our Shakespeare and Fear festival this 31 October – 9 November 2020, and book your tickets.

Our digital future has been supported by WarnerMedia, ensuring the digital infrastructure is secure throughout this period of closure and for future work to be made available to audiences worldwide.