Thoughts Story

What’s past is prologue

  One year after theatres across the UK had to cancel performances and close their doors, our Artistic Director Michelle Terry looks ahead to how we can rebuild our industry

4 minute read

There is a Japanese art called Kintsugi (golden repair) – an art born from mottainai: the feeling of regret when something is wasted – and mushin: the need to accept change.

Put simply, when an object is broken, it is stitched back together with gold, and the result is an object that honours its own history, celebrates its honest flaws, and shows itself more beautiful and unique than the original.

A grey speckled bowl that has been cracked and repaired with golden lacquer.

Kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery.

Most of us will never forget that moment, one year ago, when the announcement came, the doors were shut, and in a state of shock we walked away from the Globe, and from Theatre, having no idea of when we would return.

What followed was one of the most disorientating, devastating, uncertain, frightening times in recent history, where the individual and the collective faced existential crisis after existential crisis. As well as personal struggles of anxiety, grief and loss, this time revealed our collective humanity and inhumanity: the pandemic, the murder of George Floyd, the increasing impact of the climate crisis on our planet, polarised and binary news that threatens to reduce us all to wrong or right, right or left, the left behind or the chosen few.

We know that life is more complicated than that. We know with every act of destruction there is also the opportunity for creation, we know where there is shadow there must also be light, we know that ‘the web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together’.

Neil Constable, Patrick Spottiswoode and Michelle Terry in the Globe Theatre

CEO Neil Constable, Founder of Globe Education Patrick Spottiswoode, and Artistic Director Michelle Terry on the day we shut our doors.

And we have all found so many ways to face the good and the ill in whichever situation we found ourselves in: we all stepped in and stepped up, we all re-imagined and adapted and adapted again.

We held our nerve and we found ways to just get through the day.

And we will continue to find ways as we face the challenges that lie ahead.

And there will be challenges.

To create new ways of working will take time and commitment and patience. To bridge the disconnect between freelancers and organisations will take compassion and understanding.

Unconscious bias training will not be enough to dismantle hundreds of year old scaffolding, and then construct new scaffolding and new systems and new structures that really allow for equality and equitability.

Anti-racist training will not be enough to truly understand what racism is and what it means to be directly opposed to it.

Diversity of recruitment will not be enough if the systems within which we all operate remain the same.

Ethical frameworks and data collection will go some way to revealing the gaps but will mean nothing if the data is not a catalyst for action.

A solid purple background featuring the Globe circular logo, with a black and white photograph of Michelle Terry reading a letter, alongside the quote: What’s past is prologue

What’s past is prologue, The Tempest

We need to re-examine how we programme, who makes the work, who shares in the work, how this new digital space can explode, explore and support the work and reach people.

We need to re-evaluate our governance structures and mechanisms of accountability.

We need to create pipeline development schemes and seed programmes that directly address the gaps that our data has revealed, look at previously set targets and question why they haven’t been met, and start a dialogue with the communities that we are not serving or supporting.

In a sprawling industry in which so much great work is being done but little change seems to be made, it’s hard to know how to join the dots and share the learnings and create wholesale and lasting change.

A view from backstage of the Globe Theatre, looking out through the open double oak doors on to the stage and the galleries beyond.

We’re tired now. Tired of lockdown. But we’ll keep going anyway. Photographer: Charlotte Horobin

We’re tired now. Tired of lockdown. Tired of the uncertainty. Tired from feeling too much and tired from feeling nothing at all. Tired of feeling blamed. Tired of feeling unheard and unseen.

But we’ll do it anyway. We’ll make a start anyway. We’ll keep going anyway.

Because there is no alternative.

It feels important to mark this year, but not only to look back on what was, but also look forward to what we hope will be, as we make decisions now, take steps now, that will rebuild a globe, rebuild the Globe, to pass on to the next generation.

What’s past is prologue

— The Tempest

As we begin now, to piece ourselves back together, we will honour our history, we will share our flaws, we will create something more unique, more beautiful, and we will fill those cracks with hope, with love, with healing and with gold.

Lead us from hence, where we may leisurely
Each one demand an answer to his part
Perform’d in this wide gap of time since first
We were dissever’d; hastily lead away.

— The Winter’s Tale



After the most challenging year in our charity’s history, we still need our supporters to help us recover.

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