The Big Draw Festival 2018 is well underway and as Big Draw co-creators across the globe unite in their passion for creativity, we catch up with the people behind the hundreds of #Play2018 projects coming your way this October.
We’re thrilled to be catching up with The Globe’s Access Manager, David Bellwood who will be disclosing the vital role of drawing in both unveiling the mysteries of the bard’s original stomping ground on Bankside and its vital role in the output of these world renowned playhouses today.
Shakespeare’s Globe will be hosting their Big Draw Festival events during half term 22 – 26 October in their exhibition space and will be playing with character design.
More on ‘Shakespeare’s Stars’.
BD: Firstly, thank you for taking the time to catch up with us as you close another warmly received (quite literally in this summer’s heat) summer season at The Globe.
Taking our questions from the ground upwards, what role did drawn archival material: maps and plans play in informing how Sam Wanamaker and his team of architects reconstructed the Globe on Bankside?
DB: When it came to rebuilding the Globe, the architect who worked with Sam was Theo Crosby. Theo looked at all the contemporary sketches of playhouses, including panoramas of London. Even copies of drawings were used to get a full sense of what the interior and exterior of the original Globe may have looked like, notably the copy of a sketch by Johannes de Witt, who attended the theatre in London and drew the inside of a playhouse. These drawings are the primary connection we have to the visible world of the early modern period, and can be supported by textual reports, such as descriptions within Shakespeare’s own writing.
The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, our indoor theatre, was based on a drawing found in a book in a college library in Oxford. Information was lost as to who drew the plan at first, but we knew the theatre had not been constructed in the past. The drawing has now been attributed to the architect, John Webb who had worked for Inigo Jones.
It wasn’t just in the structural design that drawing was important. The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse is ornately decorated with hand-painted faces, cherubs, muses and celestial bodies. All of these are drawn by hand onto the walls and ceiling of the theatre by artists who have been inspired by paintings from the Seventeenth century. This all adds to the intimacy and beauty of the space, and clearly marks the playhouse as somewhere special, and set aside from the ordinary. In the Globe itself, the entire stage is covered with paintings of mythological figures and symbols, wooden pillars are decorated to resemble marble, and artists apply gold leaf borders to the roof (known as the heavens).
BD: The Big Draw believes that drawing has the power to change lives, bring ideas to life and enable us to communicate in a universal language.
The Globe’s work revolves around the spoken word and believes that Shakespeare’s Plays were designed to be performed rather than read. Bearing in mind that 400 years ago the majority of The Globe’s audience would’ve been illiterate, how important was visual communication, not only on the stage but in Elizabethan life?
DB: Extensive research has been done about the use of gesture on the early modern stage, notably by Dr Farah Karim-Cooper who is head of Research here at Shakespeare’s Globe. Her book, The Hand on the Shakespearean Stage goes into detail about how bodies were ‘read’ by an audience. The primary resources include many contemporary paintings and drawings showing how emotional and intellectual themes could be conveyed by the position of the hand. Among these sources is John Bulwer’s Naturall Language of the Hand, detailing in drawing various gestures and how to interpret them.
Equally, due to the existence of sumptuary laws – laws which literally dictated what colours people were and were not allowed to wear – the costumes worn by the actors gave an immediate visual insight into the social status and personality traits of the characters they portrayed. Designers and directors work closely to find the right visual tone for a production. A series of sketches are made of the costumes which the actors will wear. These sketches, alongside a model of the stage dressing, are often displayed in the rehearsal room throughout the rehearsal period so that actors can keep in mind what they will look like when they make it onto stage.
Today, directors have to read into the script as to how much storytelling is done visually, how much silent communication takes place between characters, and how much is told to the audience by what is worn by the actors.
BD: In your role as Access Manager at The Globe, how important are pictorial cues and visual communication in the interpretation of your collections and reception of The Globe’s productions?
DB: Understanding our space visually is very important to many Deaf and disabled visitors, as well as Deaf and disabled actors and creatives.
From the point of view of our Deaf patrons, who communicate visually, it’s of great importance that everyone can read our building. We want the journey around the site to be as instinctual as possible, and this is all informed by where we put signage and what we highlight. Equally, the more visual information we can give Deaf patrons inside a play, the more they will be able to engage with the story. The sign language names we give to Shakespeare’s characters frequently reflect the costume the actor is wearing, or another physical aspect of the actor. One of the most interesting parts of my job is engaging with visually languages and working out how best to employ them for our various patrons.
Clarity is important, obviously, and simple things such as signage needs to be as easily read by international visitors and those who have English as a first language. Whereas male and female toilet signs are common internationally, we recently went through the process of introducing gender neutral facilities, and a lot of discussion was had with external parties to choose a sign which was clear and internationally understood.
BD: The Globe’s brand identity has recently undergone an overhaul (we love the new wooden ‘O’ logo), how did this new visual identity come about and what did you want it to ultimately communicate?
DB: The new visual identity is built upon our brand model, which was developed through a workshop process involving over 140 staff, that establishes our values and the impact we aim to have as a charity. It is further informed by an audience insight project (including an extensive segmentation), audience focus groups and a series of creative design experiments.
Primarily the identity seeks to elevate the Shakespeare’s Globe name, encouraging audiences to associate all activity and content with the Globe as a brand. The logo itself is created from the same wood supply as the Globe; it is a dynamic presence that is, like our theatres, the source of the action.
BD: On a day to day basis, and across The Globe’s many departments, how important is the role of drawing or what we call ‘visual literacy’ in the production of plays, communicating with your audience and developing the Globe’s vision?
DB: The production at the team have to be able to translate a series of various images as they work, these can be seating plans, scenery plans, model boxes (which show the designer’s original ideas for the production), costume sketches, and patterns for loth cutting. Any one production has a myriad of visual resources which support the play looking as the director wish, but also ensure that the audience have a comfortable experience. Obviously, in most of these processes, the challenge is translating two-dimensional images into three-dimensional objects and then placing them in space.
Likewise, when speaking to our patrons, the Box Office and Visitor Experience staff will often show maps and seating plans of the site and the auditoria respectively. Obviously, those members of staff have to be able to translate those images into words (directions, explanations, etc.) for those patrons who may find it difficult to visualise the actual spaces being depicted.
Much of the work of our communication is about giving an audience an immediate insight into a production without giving a full breakdown of a whole play. A ubiquitous form of this is in poster design, wherein the design and marketing team have to distil an entire play into one image. This image, likewise, has to be legible in a short space of time (imagine you see a poster on an escalator going to the tube: you don’t have a great deal of time to really study it). It takes a lot of time to choose the one image which will do all this work, and the process can take many weeks.
BD: Do you draw? What role does drawing play in your life outside of work?
DB: I do indeed! I am currently working on a couple of fairy drawings for my goddaughters. When I am not doing that, something I have done since childhood is draw maps of fantastical lands. I don’t know why I have kept this up, but I have, and have many, many sketchbooks full of unexplored jungles and cities made of ice. There’s probably an in depth reason a psychiatric professional could give you as to why I do this! However, for me, it is calming to take time out of a busy world, full of fast-moving images and back-lit screens in order to take the time to collect my own thoughts and see where a pencil leads me. The destinations are often quite surprising!
BD: Each year The Big Draw Festival carries a theme for our co-creators to explore. This year our theme is ‘Play’ and its role in development, creativity and innovation – research has shown that play is not only a vital tool in child development but also essential for well-being and discovery in adulthood. It may seem an obvious question to direct to the world’s most famous playhouse, but how is Play important for you and in the work of The Globe?
DB: Play is what we are here for. It is what we engage in every day and what we celebrate. In play, we get to inhabit other roles other than those we live, and it allows us to engage with important, universal topics and have the safety of knowing that there is space to be daring, to test the outcomes of unexpected decisions and to bring others into our imaginary worlds. Play is primitive, an activity undertaken by all sorts of mammals, from fox cubs to apes, but it evolves, and becomes more sophisticated over time, with age, and with learning. Play is incorporated not just in our rehearsals, but in the work of our marketing team and our Education department. It is used as a tool to dig into the meanings of the things which we say. So yes, it is massively important!
BD: This year The Globe is hosting a Big Draw Festival event: ‘Shakespeare’s Stars’ during October Half Term, can you tell us a bit more about what you have planned?
DB: Shakespeare wrote about lots of different subjects, and his characters could be good, bad, serious, silly, sometimes scary. Our event will be taking place beneath the Globe theatre, where visitors can design their own ‘star’ for the stage – what might they look like? What will they be wearing? What will they be saying and feeling? What stories might they tell? Are they a main character like Romeo or Juliet, or are they a smaller character? It will be a fantastic opportunity for visitors to get creative and take a playful approach to design in such a unique setting.
Shakespeare's Globe is one of our Big Draw Festival 2018 Sponsor Partners.
Interested in taking part in their fantastic #Play2018 Big Draw Festival events from 23-25 of October? We're not surprised! A link to their full programme can be found here.
Interested in visiting a Big Draw Festival event near you this Autumn? Take a look at our Big Draw 2018 events map here, sign up to our localised event alerts here or perhaps you’d like to join our merry band of Big Draw Festival co-creators and organise your very our events?
Visit our Organise an Event page for guidance on getting started.