Sunday, 7 October 2012

In Which Shakespeare Happens

Sometimes you have to wait for the Good Things to happen. Way back in February, I saw Stephen Fry tweet that he was going to be appearing at the Globe Theatre, in Twelfth Night, in the autumn. So I rushed off to the theatre's website, booked a pair of tickets, and then asked my friend J if she'd like to meet up and go with me. And then we waited for 8 months, and on Wednesday we both travelled to London to meet up and see the show.

We had tickets for the matinee performance, so had also take the opportunity to book tickets for the British Museum's exhibition 'Shakespeare - Staging the World'.
'The Long View' -Wenceslaus Hollar, 1647
The exhibition uses Shakespeare's life and works as a prism through which to look at the world he lived in, and London in particular, and brings together some fascinating articles, interspersed with videos of actors (including Anthony Sher and Paterson Joseph) performing extracts from some of the plays.

There were maps of London, tapestries of Warwickshire, a 1st Folio, an actual page in Shakespeare's own hand (part of a play about Sir Thomas More) as well as other items with less immediate connections to Shakespeare - including a hand bill for a bear pit (and the skull of a bear!) the eye of Edward Oldcorne (executed for alleged involvement in the Gunpowder Plot)

Reliquary containing right eye of Edward Oldcorne, 1606
And the Funeral Achievements of Henry V (including a decorative shield which is believed to date from the late 1300s - it's just amazing to think that this could have survived so long.

I had slightly mis-calculated how long stuff would take us, so we ended up having to run the last bit to the Globe in order to avoid being late for the start of the show!

We were seated in the upper gallery, which (as the name suggests) is right up at the top of the theatre, but we had great seats (or rather, spaces on the wooden bench!) - right at the front.
View from our seats, during the interval
The show was excellent - it's a very traditional version of the play, with an all-male cast, and full period costume. Mark Rylance (Olivia) was the complete, upper-class lady - dead white make up, huge farthingale - very much the great lady, rather than the young, naive girl she is sometimes played as.
(Photo Nigel R Barklie/Rex)
Olivia glides across the stage (rather like the ladies in 'Trumpton'), making 3-point turns when she needs to turn or sit. There are occasional moments where she slipped over in to pantomime dame, but they were infrequent.

Samuel Barnett's Sebastian and Johnny Flynn's Viola were superb -they were dressed in identical white doublets and hose, with long hair, and managed to make their mistaken identity became believable.
 Liam Brennan's Orsino was very convincing in his (slightly uncomfortable) attraction to 'Cesario'.

Stephen Fry's Malvolio presented as a dry, pedantic bureaucrat, less malignant than the character is sometimes presented as being, arrogant and awkward in his hopes of affection from Olivia, and pitiable in his imprisonment.
taking a bow
In all, it was a highly enjoyable piece of theatre, and while the run at the Globe was fully sold out and has, I think, now ended, the play is transferring to the West End - I'd say it's well worth booking tickets,  if you can. And I very much hope that having returned to the stage after so long, Stephen Fry will be considering more productions in future.

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