Returning to Shakespeare’s Globe

Annexe Editor, Nick Murray, rekindled his love for the magnificent Globe Theatre this week when he went to see Christopher Marlowe’s masterpiece, Doctor Faustus.
Read about his admiration for authentic woodwork, 16th century comedy and the nostalgia of Cities after the jump.

It has been many moons since I was last at The Globe Theatre and somehow I always forget just how spectacular it is. Maybe my imagination just can’t fill in all that wondrous detail for too long. I was lucky enough to be get tickets to see Doctor Faustus and upon entering the building, I couldn’t have been happier. As I ambled into the theatre, I was captivated by the visual treat that is the stage. It is rare in this day and age that you find a serious theatre stage with much colour at all. Something about distracting from the performance.  The Globe is from the time before such conventions were… convention. The whole place is constructed from oak, but the artistry with which it has been painted leads the eye to believe that the beautifully crafted pillars really are made from the finest Boticena Marble and the carved stage roof really is painted with gold leaf. All of this adds a certain ceremony to the proceedings, elevating the serious scenes to real life-changing drama and the comedy to uproarious hilarity.

There is a feeling, right at the back of one’s mind, that Shakespeare’s Globe is part of the City’s own nostalgia. Not that I’m saying this is a bad thing. It remembers the good bits and the more unsavoury memories are left to the past. The reconstruction is made to totally authentic 16th century specifications; timber framing, mortise and tenon joinery, that sort of thing. Then, the floor is made of concrete as opposed to the original dirt and nutshells. Again, I must say I’m the first to cheer this change. The architectural memory best left forgotten is the smell the original Globe probably had, emanating from that same dirt floor.

The production of Doctor Faustus was, for lack of a more descriptive word, perfect. We were rolling in the aisles at Marlowe’s crisp wit and I, quite literally, was on the edge of my seat when Faustus’ soul was on the block and ready for collection. The acting from Paul Hilton (Faustus) and Arthur Darvill (Mephistopheles, also a face you might know as Rory from Doctor Who) was first class. Exactly the level of skill that the Globe deserves. The play’s theme of power through knowledge is superbly accented by the props (books spontaneously combusting when they are opened) and by the first class choreography of the (somewhat expanded) Chorus; adjoining scenes, wherein the actors, dressed in black scholars outfits, are dragged across the stage by the books they hold in their hands. Throughout, the humour of the play was translated flawlessly to have the modern audience in stitches. Though this led to many a completely unfounded comment between my companion and myself about how Marlowe is miles better than Shakespeare and comparisons between them and various boy bands while we nibbled on danishes, sipped hot chocolate and shielded our bottoms from the hard wooden benches with rented cushions. I can definitely say, the City’s selective nostalgia is no bad thing.

Of course, as the Globe’s run is fast coming to a close for the winter, there is almost no time for you to get in on the plays, but if you happen to be strolling along that part of the Thames, spare a moment to look up at the building and think about how lucky we are to have our own Globe.

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2 responses to “Returning to Shakespeare’s Globe

  1. Dear Nick,
    Glad you like Doctor Faustus, which was definitely the highlight for me this year, but you missed a trick. If you can bear to stand for the performance, being a groundling is both the cheapest theatre in London (only a fiver!), and the closest to the action. Well recommended!

    • You’re absolutely right Liam. Standing in the Yard definitely is a brilliant way to see the performance and generally how I tend to see things at the Globe. This time however, I couldn’t turn down a couple of great seats. It was pretty hilarious to see the groundlings right at the front get doused as one of the players acted out peeing off the stage.

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