Stevie Carroll (stevie_carroll) wrote,
Stevie Carroll

Henry VI at the Globe

My Summer of Shakespeare continued on the Wednesday of last week with a trip to London. After some slight confusion over where we were supposed to meet (in which I found interesting stuff to be photographed another time), I tracked down my historical collaborator under the clock at Waterloo Station. And she was suitably dressed for Elizabethan theatre, so I really shouldn't have missed her the first time. The tide was out as we wandered along the South Bank, and a man was making a rather impressive sand sculpture of St Paul's Cathedral. Which just goes to show how unpolluted the water is these days.

After tea and pastries at the top of the Tate Modern (with an excellent view of the real St Paul's amongst other wonders, we strolled the rest of the way to the Globe, past a variety of street entertainers (including a guy in a chicken suit who must have been overheating).

The Globe is impressive, no matter how many times I visit. Having seen Othello as a groundling, I'd not been entirely sure what to expect from the various seated bays so I'd tried to organise a bit of variety for the various performances (slightly hindered by what was available). So, for Parts One and Three we were in the Lower Gallery with a more or less direct view to the front right hand corner of the stage and for Part Two we were in the Middle Gallery to the left of the stage. Both areas had advantages and disadvantages, and even one row's difference made a slight impression on what could be seen. Cushions are definitely recommended; I brought one from home, but I can see that some people might prefer to hire one that's an exact fit for the row seats. We both bought programmes, which were very comprehensive, and came in useful for looking up who was related to whom, and keeping track of the roles played by each actor (almost everyone played multiple roles, which was most fun when the Duke of Newcastle was played in the same costume as Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester as well as when Jack Cade picked up the head of the Duke of Suffolk and studied his own face on it).

Part One, Harry the Sixth, got off to a splendid start with the funeral of Henry V, complete with coffin, which spent the remainder of the first half doubling as a chest from which swords could be grabbed at opportune moments. Henry VI was splendidly dotty from the start, although my collaborator thought some of that might be youthful exuberance. Joan of Arc was marvellous, and played very much as working class rather than as exaggeratedly French. The battle scenes were great, but not overwhelming, and the wooing of Margaret on Anjou by the Duke of Suffolk (on Henry's behalf) added some lighter moments.

Part Two, The Houses of York & Lancaster, had plenty of plotting and scheming in the first half especially, which ended with the beheading of Suffolk and Margaret's subsequent grief. The second half began with Jack Cade's rebellion and some fun audience participation as the rebels got everyone clapping along to their chants. Jack Cade's claims and the asides about them from his friends felt really fresh, and his subsequent downfall was particularly poignant. The play ended on a suitably upbeat note from the Yorkist faction, with Warwick being suitably militaristic throughout the play.

Part Three, The True Tragedy of the Duke of York, started to bring me around to the idea of a Richard of Gloucester played as a crippled hunchback, mostly because of his glee at having a head in a bag, and the proper emotion he gave to his soliloqy. He was a proper villain/antihero who just happened to have deformities in this part, whereas that was harder to pick up on in the previous play due to his limited appearances in it. The various death scenes were particularly well interpreted too.

In between the performances we managed a hasty pub lunch, and also ice creams by the Thames (tide by then fully in) followed by a visit to the theatre shop where I picked up a poster of London before and after the Great Fire, and the Manga version of Richard III. All in all a Grand Day Out.
Tags: out and about, real life, summer of shakespeare
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