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Designer - Liz Cooke

It is the designer’s job to help tell the story of the play by providing a setting for that story. To do this it is important to know the text well. You can’t do a good design if you are not true to the play. The setting doesn’t have to be realistic, but the designer needs to make it believable. A designer also gives a mood to a show. Design is often about portraying ideas to an audience through what they see on a stage.

First thoughts

Our production of Much Ado About Nothing is for a young audience. For me, this naturally highlights the themes, in the play, of rivalry, falling in and out of love, finding the perfect partner and aspiring to have a wonderful wedding. I am excited about exploring modern images, like those in celebrity magazines, which express these themes and aspirations. This will create a dramatic contrast on the Globe stage, which was designed four hundred years ago. Hopefully it will be an interesting coming together of ideas.


The first thing a designer does is have a conversation with the director. Jo and I talked about our impressions of the play and the important themes to bring out in this production. We both wanted to give the play a modern setting. We discussed images that came into our minds at particular points of the play. The monuments, flowers and over emotive grieving for Hero when she appears to have died made us think of the death of Princess Diana. Once we had a collection of images I began the process of knitting them together so that they make sense all the way through the play.

The Globe Theatre

The Globe is very different from other theatres, which are like a blank box - everything you dream up is from your imagination. The Globe’s architecture is fixed, you have to respect it and work with it. The pillars, balconies and entrances could be seen as restrictions, but you can be really creative in the ways you find to use them. A very special part of working at the Globe is the closeness of the audience, we can incorporate them and make them part of a scene.


The play is set in Messina but Jo and I want to evoke feelings which are probably more familiar to the audience. Hopefully familiarity will help the audience get inside and under the skin of the play. The whole theatre will be Leonato’s house, where Leonato’s family is waiting for the boys to come home from war. I wanted to begin with a feeling that there was an absence and when the boys come home that starts this chain of events, so when the boys return the house becomes colourful, light and bright. Within the story things come together and fall apart and come together again which will be reflected in what you see on stage. When I was planning the design, my ideas seemed to build from the wedding scene. Hero’s dream is to have this brilliant wedding and so the design is emblematic of all her dreams, the decorations go up and then fall down in pieces. From the moment the engagement is announced, all the characters will be involved in putting up wedding decorations. The actors will be hanging things and putting up banners. This will provide a good way of people hiding behind things or pretending to be involved, which ties in with the major themes of gulling and deception.

Before rehearsals

At the moment, I am working on structural drawings for the bits of the set which have to be built, which then we will have to cost. I will be giving the stage management team references for what the props might look like. They will then go out and try and find suitable props. I have just started working with the costume supervisor. We are busy working out how much we think the costumes I have designed will cost and then we will go out shopping for material samples to show the actors when we meet on the first day of rehearsals. We will then go shopping for the things that we don’t make.