Monday, June 27, 2005

A Bard By Any Other Name

The new Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is nestled on the south bank of the River Thames near Blackfriars Bridge. After years of planning, wrangling and cajoling, it was finally agreed that all the political controversy was a Comedy of Errors and the new Globe was opened in 1996. The theatre provides a venue that would be familiar to actors and audiences who attended the original Globe from 1599 to 1617. There is only a partial thatched roof and much of the audience can enjoy London’s weather whilst enjoying a play. It can be very exciting to start Act I, Scene 1 relaxing in A Midsummer Night’s Dream to find yourself by Act 3, Scene 4 being soaked to your knickers by The Tempest. Just as in the original, patrons can arrive late, leave early, wander around during the performance and generally ignore the entire show. This is particularly useful for the 382 Japanese tourists whose bus is on its own schedule and who don’t speak English in any case. Going to the Globe is pretty much As You Like It.

Of course the new Globe is not an exact reproduction of the original. There is electric stage lighting for evening performances. Luckily the wiring is up to standard and functions reliably more than just every Twelfth Night. Public loos ensure that All’s Well That Ends Well. In addition, the entire structure conforms to the approximately 80,000 page European Union Directive on Reproducing Old Theatres although most Brits think European Union Directives are Much Ado About Nothing. American tourist groups can appreciate a day or night at the Globe. The ladies of the Minot, North Dakota Garden Club might meet Two Gentlemen From Verona. (As a warning to the maids of Minot, inviting two swarthy Italians back to the Holiday Inn might end in Love’s Labours Lost. Even worse, such dalliances can result in a serious case of A Lover’s Complaint.)

Next season’s programme at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre should be especially interesting because the incoming artistic director believes that Shakespeare actually wrote all this stuff. The current AD, one Mark Rylance, is of the opinion that a lower class hack from the Midlands could not possibly have been an artistic genius. Mr Rylance takes the collected works of Bill the Bumpkin Measure for Measure and claims that no one but a Londoner could have been sophisticated enough to keep track of 4 Henry’s, 2 Richard’s and a John. It is obvious to him that the real source of all this inspired writing was a committee of sophisticated Londoners. His candidates for this shady group of contributing authors include the Earl of Oxford, Francis Bacon, Queen Elizabeth I and perhaps several other upper class twits with time on their hands. After all, for the last 400 years London has been a recognised centre of shady committees and unemployed upper class twits. In the meantime, the bumbling denizens of the Midlands have not even been able to keep an MG Rover factory in business.

The incoming Artistic Director of the Globe Theatre, Dominic Dromgoole, plans to put Shakespeare back into the Globe. He is of the opinion that the committee theory is ‘baloney’. There is compelling evidence to support his position. In Act V, Scene 4, King Richard III sees that his position on the battlefield of Bosworth is hopeless. All is lost! He utters that famous line, ‘A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!’ Surely this is the work of a single genius. If it were the work of a committee, the last King of the House of York would have screamed frantically for a camel.


Blogger John Walter said...

Good post. Anyone wanting to get an idea of how plays might originally have been put-on in the Globe should go to the classics section of the video store and rent Lawrence Olivier's 1945 version of "Henry V". It starts out in the Globe, portrays the unruly audience, the obtrusive snack vendors, the half-tipsy actors playing both male and female parts, and a nervous William Shakespeare off on stage right reading through the script and giving hand signals so the actors can remember their cues. Gradually, as the film watcher grows more engrossed with the story, the stage fades away and the sets become ever more realistic until we see the Battle of Agincourt fought more or less realistically on an open set. Terrific classic movie experience.

8:22 AM  
Blogger Whymrhymer said...

Sound like a great place to put on my travel itinerary . . . if I had a travel itinerary! LOL

I will make an effort to get the movie suggested by John Walter -- sounds great!

9:54 AM  
Blogger birdwoman said...

I was there in 98 - had a lemonade in a nearby cafe.

I'm saddened that you didn't get Taming of the Shrew in there somehow.


12:14 PM  
Blogger Homo Insapiens said...

Henry V is a great movie. As to the Taming of the Shrew, the bloody woman refused to go to the theatre and it was only after several pink gins at the Pig & Whistle that she agreed to do much of anything at all.

By the way Birdwoman...what is lemonade?

5:38 PM  
Anonymous dv said...

Ah well, there's your problem. The Shrew was only tamed by deprivation and starvation.

Too much gin, as everyone knows, is Mother's Ruin.

9:49 AM  

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