A fan letter to Shakespeare’s Globe

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The Globe x 3: The Tempest, The Taming of the Shrew, and Macbeth, June 2013

 

From zero to three in ten days. What can I say? To see one Shakespeare play at the Globe in London was the main reason for this trip.  We saw three.

 

THE TEMPEST

  • Directed      by: Jeremy Herrin
  • Cast:      Prospero – Roger Allam; Ariel – Colin Morgan; Caliban – James Garnon;      Miranda – Jessie Buckley; Ferdinand – Joshua James; Stephano – Sam Cox;      Trinculo – Trevor Fox
  • Seen:      June 16, 2013

 

The stage is bare. Actors enter, reeling, stumbling, rolling, struggling to survive the tempest. So it starts, so it continues; with very simple means we are captured in this magical island world of Prospero, Ariel, Caliban, Miranda, Ferdinand and the rest.

They are superb.  This is the Globe, after all.

Roger Allam as Prospero is outstanding, as he always is.  He has a perfect sense of timing and dares to take long pauses. He is often very funny.  His monologue deliveries are powerful, and nasty old Prospero actually becomes quite likeable.  Allam is approximately a thousand times better than the Prospero we saw at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm a couple of years ago.

Dear little Merlin has grown up in the form of Colin Morgan as the tall, well built, athletic and handsome (but still mild and sweet!) Ariel with slicked back hair, lovely face and very nimble moves. And he can sing! Not a great voice but very pleasant and poignant. I’m worried he’ll twist his ankle charging around the stage as a monster bird in clumpy platform claws but nimble was the word! And he’s a good dancer too.

Caliban is good too but he stereotypes his savage interpretation a bit. His use of the airplanes flying overhead is however hilarious, as is his spitting on the groundlings (I wonder if they think so).  Generally he is more funny than tragic and his moments of seriousness are too few and fleeting.  He doesn’t come close to the brilliance of Jonas Karlsson’s Caliban in the above mentioned production of The Tempest in Stockholm but he is good.

Miranda, on the other hand, is the best I’ve ever seen.  Saucy, clever, funny, aggressive-in-love. Jessie Buckley really makes this small roll vivid and complex.  Likewise Ferdinand. Funny and silly but sweet, and for once we can see why a young woman would fall in love with one of Shakespeare’s inane young men.

Trinculo is very funny, even (especially?) when peeing on the groundlings and Stephano too is hilarious.

The other various kings and lords and sailors are hard to understand but that’s OK.  When Prospero’s staff is broken and the whole cast is dancing and the audience is applauding wildly, I am sad that it is ending but oh so happy to be there and have seen it.

 

THE TAMING OF THE SHREW

  • Director:      Joe Murray
  • Cast:      Katherine – Kate Lamb: Petruccio – Leah Whitaker; Tranio – Remy Beasley;      Lucentio – Becci Gemmell; Baptista/Grumio – Kathryn Hunt;      Bianca/Biondello/Curtis – Olivia Morgan; Gremio/Vincentio/widow – Joy Richardson;      Hortensio/pedant – Nicola Sangster
  • Seen:      June 19, 2013

 

It was with a great deal of trepidation that I anticipated seeing this play, the only one available at the time of our seminar with the Swedish Shakespeare Society. It is a problematic play and the three film versions I’ve seen are quite awful, frankly, with a raging hysterical Katherine falling in love with Petruccio.  I really didn’t want to see this play if that was going to be the interpretation.

The play starts. The trepidation continues while watching it. It’s funny. Tranio and Biondello are very good as are Vincentio and the Widow.  Katherine is quite reserved, not at all hysterical, which is good. Petruchio is not so convincing at the beginning but gets nastier, though at times still charming. The music is fun, the mix of 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and 60’s costumes as well.  There are a lot of laughs. The audience seems to love it.

I’m worried about Katherine’s final monologue.  Will it ruin everything?

She starts it. It’s low key – almost toneless. She stands motionless center stage, her face dirty, her hair mussed, her ruffled wedding dress torn and muddy.  Her voice starts breaking. She gradually falls apart. By the end she is weeping.  Her spirit has been crushed.

Perfect.

The rest of the cast stare at her in distress. Petruccio tries to laugh it off. He can’t. What has he done? He didn’t mean to… but he has.

Last scene. Enter Katherine alone, playing a mournful saxophone solo. Enter Petruchio who just watches her. Enter the rest for a more jolly song.

The end.

Finally! An interpretation that shows the play for what it really is, for what I hope and believe was Shakespeare’s intention. A tragedy. Very funny, but a tragedy.

What a relief. Now I want to see it again so I don’t have to worry throughout the whole thing.

Please, Globe, release a DVD immediately!

 

See my text about the play from 2011under Play Analyses on this blog

 

MACBETH

  • Director:       Eve Best
  • Cast:      Macbeth – Joseph Millson; Lady Macbeth – Samantha Spiro; Witches – Moyo      Akandé, Jess Murphy and Cat Simmons; Banquo – Billy Boyd; Porter – Bette      Bourne; Ross – Geoff Aymer; Macduff – Stuart Bowman; Malcolm – Philip      Cumbus; Duncan – Gawn Grainger; Fleance et al – Colin Ryan
  • Seen:      June 22, 2013

 

The entire cast, motionless on stage. Slow waving arm movements. Then furious drumming.

Everyone but the Weird Sisters glide off the stage and the words are spoken: “When shall we three meet again, in thunder, lightning or in rain?”

Unlike in some films, they’re not so weird. Three young, good-looking women who sing well. They have almost no props – no cauldron, even – and they’re quite laid back.  Very effective.

There are very few props at all. A bowl, some skinny spindly trees for the moving forest, some swords and axes and clubs. A table with chairs. That’s about it.

It’s a very funny play.  I’ve never noticed that before.  The very good-looking Macbeth is actually kind of a doofus.  Banquo is a feisty jocular Scotch terrier, funny and likeable.  There are a lot of laughs from the audience. Even in the sad ghost-of-Banquo scene, when he isn’t jocular anymore, just very white, bloody, silent and scary.

But then we grow quieter. Macbeth’s anguish, Lady Macbeth’s breakdown, the very dramatic fight between Macduff and Macbeth in which Macduff kills Macbeth by breaking his neck.  Macbeth – dead on the stage.  One of the Weird Sisters playing a mournful Scottish song on a violin as the entire cast re-enters and Macbeth rises. Return to first-scene slowly waving arms.

Then silence.

Then jolly jig and thunderous applause and cheering.

Macbeth! At the Globe!  What a splendid evening.

 

 

 

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Author:Ruby Jand

Ruby Jand has an MA in English literature and history from the University of Stockholm. She teaches history and English at grade school and high school level at the Sundbyberg School of Adult Education in a suburb of Stockholm. Her interest in Shakespeare has emerged recently, developing within the last year into an ongoing project on the blog Shakespeare Calling.

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