I’m totally mad about the Bard. The module of study I did on Shakespeare during my OU degree was one of the most enjoyable study-experiences I’ve had, and introduced me to some plays and sonnets that I didn’t previously know. During that course, and since, I have been lucky enough to see some fabulous productions. I’ve made friends sick by getting tickets for David Tennant’s ‘Richard II’ and Benedict Cumberbatch’s ‘Hamlet’… But until now, I hadn’t experienced Shakespeare in The Globe.
The ‘challenge’ part of this ‘challenge’ was probably getting my hands on tickets! 2016 being the commemoration of 400 years since Shakespeare’s death has meant some wonderful performances available…but has also rendered their popularity huge. So back in February, when the ‘summer’ season at the Globe went live, I was on it! Melissa (of Challenge #5 ‘Go to the Bingo’ fame) was a definite for this adventure, so armed with a list of dates we could both make and plays that we both fancied, and lo, ‘The Merchant of Venice’ for Saturday 15th October was booked.
Arriving in London early afternoon, we checked into our hotel and took a stroll along the South Bank, checking out Tate Modern (briefly) and Gabriel’s Wharf (a longer stop because it involved beer). Then back to the hotel to collect an adequate supply of warm clothing for the evening. It had started to rain at around 5pm, and we were feeling a little dismayed at the prospect of a rain-soaked performance; thankfully by 7.30 the good old British weather had decided to clear up and stayed dry for the remainder of the evening.
The setting of the theatre is just wonderful. In the daytime the building looks lovely, and there are excellent informative tours, which I’d been to some years ago. In the evening, it looks just magical, and the atmosphere in both the courtyard and the auditorium was buzzing. Armed with coats, cushions, nibbles and wine, we made our way to our seats. (You didn’t think we were going to stand with the Groundlings, did you…?!). There were already ‘minstrels’ and players onstage, then fireworks heralded ‘curtain up’.
What can I say? An amazingly entertaining spectacle, I was engrossed from start to finish. (I must have been, because I managed the ‘challenge’ of sitting on the rock hard wooden bench with no back support without complaining!). Jonathan Pryce was an excellent Shylock, with his real-life daughter playing his daughter Jessica. I also recognised the actor playing Antonio, but had to look him up to find that he had been in numerous films and TV shows. An excellent and talented cast, I especially loved the wit of the servant Launcelot, and the audience participation he orchestrated (including some very brave ‘victims’ dragged up on stage!!). As for the story – if you don’t know it, it bears all the hallmarks of Shakespeare at his best; classified as a ‘comedy’, it certainly does have its share of laughter and frivolity, but the themes of anti-Semitism, justice and mercy make for uncomfortable viewing at times. As a teacher I have found myself trying to convince students of Shakespeare’s relevance today – given the current political climate, this play seemed mighty relevant to me.
The 2 hours 45 minutes running time was over all to quickly. As the cast took their curtain calls, the setting once again came into its own as the full moon was clearly visible in the open sky above. Truly fabulous.
We finished off our evening with a Greek meze supper and a natter into the wee hours. On Sunday morning we enjoyed a sensory delight as we navigated the alleyways of Bankside and Southwark, culminating in a trip up The Shard. I love it when a challenge brings added excitement! Thank you Mel for a fantastic weekend.
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