A chance meeting on Manly Beach led to innovations at the Pop Up Globe theatre – the world’s first temporary working replica of Shakespeare’s second Globe theatre – that is drawing crowds into Auckland.
Until the theatre opened for its current season, in the middle of last month, details of the design and scenery were kept under wraps. Much of the work involved in giving this year’s Pop Up Globe an authentic Jacobean atmosphere fell to local artist John Charles of Matakatia.
John, a “semi-retired” artist, and his wife Alison, met Pop Up Globe founder Miles Gregory, of Manly, a year ago while walking on the beach and eventually became part of a team of Whangaparaoa locals involved with the innovative and creative project.
Along with Miles and John, that team includes Miles’ wife Bob Capocci (costume designer) and locations manager Kevin Hill who is from Army Bay.
As scenic designer, John was tasked with making a scale model of the Pop Up Globe – he also painted the ceiling, designed scenery and props, made murals and carved a series of ‘grotesques’ out of Styrofoam.
John says although his background is as an illustrator and art director for film production in London, he had never made a model before.
“I wouldn’t have done it if my family hadn’t talked me into it,” he says. “I worried about letting a lot of people down.”
His wife Alison and son Jack, both graphic designers, insisted – which, at times, they may have had cause to regret.
The model took more than 800 hours to make and was largely constructed on the family’s dining table, overlooking Matakatia Bay. “For months the room was covered in sawdust and there was a smell of burned timber,” John says.
John’s work led to changes in the structure including a decorative ceiling over the stage and a vent into the onion-shaped ‘lantern’ on top of the roof.
After computer modeling and hand drawing plans, John had 900 structural pieces laser cut from ply. He stuck these together into 350 pieces, then into two halves. “It was an organic process that I worked out as I went along. I had my fingers crossed all the way,” he says. The model, which is kept at Ellerslie Racecourse where the Pop Up Globe has been built, was made in 16 sections and can be split in half and the roof lifted off.
John’s design was scaled up to full theatre size, three-storey, so it could be made in a warehouse in Grey Lynn, then dismantled and reassembled in Ellerslie. There were several 18-hour days. At one stage, while John and Alison hand painted the artworks on the ceiling, John fainted of dehydration.
“There were tears – of frustration and anguish but mostly pride,” he says. “I’m a bit of a theatre virgin, but I’ve been to a few Pop Up Globe shows now and when you see actors on that stage, bringing the whole thing to life, it’s a magical thing to be part of.”