Last week saw my first visit to Shakespeare’s Globe in London. The lads and ladies of which, are so hugely talented it’s enviable even to non-thespians. For those that have never been or heard of it, The Globe is an open air theatre on the banks of the River Thames, dedicated entirely to the works of William Shakespeare. This incredible theatre – the likes of which I have not encountered before – has the most amazing atmosphere which hits you as soon as you enter. It is as if you are actually stepping back in time. Although there is a stage (a hugely impressive one at that), the space around it that would normally be stall seating, is standing room only. This area is as much part of the play as the stage, which means the audience are almost living the scenes. It certainly ramps up the entertainment value, as the reactions of the general public obviously vary greatly!
The actors and actresses are so in the moment, you almost believe you are too. This of course, is much easier to accept and acknowledge as an adult. As a teenager, I don’t mind admitting that Shakespeare both scared and bored me. This was echoed by the group of adolescent boys in school uniform sat in front of us, who spent the entire performance head on arms or inappropriately (for some) crunching on crisps! Generally they looked like they would rather watch paint dry, which actually made me giggle, as I remember feeling exactly the same way at their age. At school, I heard repetitively that Shakespeare was a genius, but I just didn’t “get it”. I didn’t understand the language he used and – knowing what I do now – I certainly didn’t get the humour. Not at all. It always felt serious and heavy. The three Shakespeare plays I’ve seen in the past couple of years have been far from that.
The production of Measure for Measure at The Globe was long, no question. I’ll openly admit that at the end of the first act I did struggle with a numb bum and a wandering eye. But I was also engaged enough to still be laughing. In fact I laughed quite a lot throughout, which must mean that I finally “get it”. I can understand Shakespeare enough to actually appreciate his work. And unsurprisingly concur that yes, he was an absolute genius. I am as shocked as anyone (particularly my GCSE English teacher!). But perhaps much of my new found appreciation is to do with the calibre of the productions I’ve seen. I would say that The Globe is really the ultimate Shakespearean experience. But actually it wasn’t my absolute favourite production.
The all male production company, Propeller have an inimitable take on Shakespeare, injecting comedy and boundless energy to their performances to make them unique and magical. I love the theatre but these guys, seriously, are just beyond talented. If like me, Shakespeare was not your thing back in the day, but you fancy giving it another try, my tip would be to start with one of their performances. They tour internationally but regularly appear in Kent and even do “pocket” productions. Condensed, shortened adaptations, delivered at a manic pace, which allow you to be out of the theatre in about an hour, wondering what just happened and desperately wanting more! Seriously, you’ll be impressed by the brevity if nothing else. But I guarantee you will also be smiling.