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Shakespeare in his Globe

It has unfortunately been a while since I have had a chance to write. Even now, although things are going well for me here in London, it has been difficult given so much that is happening in the world to find the reason to write a lighthearted post. I had originally planned to write about my recent trip to Paris, but out of respect I would instead like to reach back in my file to an early outing that I have not had a chance to share with you yet.

Many weeks ago now, a couple of friends and I had the opportunity to see Richard II performed at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater located on the south bank of the Thames here in London. What I have noticed about a lot of productions I have seen here is the quality of sets and lighting is far superior to what we usually see in the states. I say this acknowledging most of what I see is experimental dance performances, but even so there tends to be a lot more money in the arts here which is really wonderful. The Globe was no exception.

When I entered the theater, it was from the courtyard and ground level into the white washed, thatched roof space that looks a bit like a cottage from the outside. The architecture is very much reminiscent of Stratford upon Avon where Shakespeare called home, and cuts a unique figure next to the modern Tate gallery just steps away.

I stood stage side, literally – I could touch the stage, just feet away from the performers, as common people would have in Shakespeare’s day. With this point of view I was able to gaze up at the entire round of the theater and admire not just the setting of this play, but the history in the space. From my vantage point I could see the seats rising up in three curved tears above the stage, pillars filled to the sky with golden tulle meant to be the walls of Richard’s castle, and vines of an enchanted garden creeping toward the mezzanine. Some of the most interesting detail for me was the use of fire. Excuse me geeking out over the tech ideas, but I had always wondered if old stage shows were lit with fire instead of lamps as we know them today and this was great to see in life.

As this set was remarkably simple, fire was one element used to help transform the space. Since we were in the 21st century, as reminded by the occasionally international flight roaring over the open-air theater, flame was not the source of all light, but it did change the focus of the audience. For example, alter candles were used during a scene where the queen was praying for relief to highlight her distress. In another scene a ring of fire, well of candles backlit the king to make him appear more prominent and powerful above the other players bellow him on stage. From candelabras to hand held torches, the flame was well integrated into the piece and added to the feel of Shakespearean time.

Three hours is a long time to be on your feet, but at Ł5 a ticket it was well worth it to see Shakespeare performed in the Globe.

~ London Logic ~

Shakespearean English is actually much more similar to American English despite the fact it originated in the UK. Because British English has changed so much overtime to accommodate the various accents and speech impediments of their monarchs, it has changed significantly since the time of Shakespeare. The Globe actors are trained to speak Shakespearean English as close as possible to how it would have been in his time.


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