Saturday, 23 April 2016

Will Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe and other friends

After my morning of exhibitions, I headed over to the Globe Theatre, or rather to it's neighbour, the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. 

It's the first time I have been. The playhouse was built in 2014 and is a reproduction of a Jacobean indoor theatre, built of wood (within in brick shell) and lit by candles. It was built based on 17th Century plans - and is likely to be similar to the Blackfriars Theatre which was built in 1596 and used by Shakespeare's 'Lord Chamberlain's Men' from 1608, so his later plays would have performed somewhere like this.

It's not very big - it seats 340 (snugly) and it's an interesting experience. As I booked months ago, I had a seat in the front row of the pit (the front row consisting of two teeny wooden benches, one each side of the aisle, each seating 3 people. It is, I have to say, extremely uncomfortable. But close to the action. Like the Globe, the actors have lots of entrances and exits via the aisle.
(photo from the Globe's website)
As well as being my first visit to the Playhouse, it was also the first time I have seen 'Cymbeline'. 

It's an interesting play - Othello-esque jealousy, plus cross-dressing, a wicked step-mother, mistaken identity, battles, Romans and a happy ending (except, of course, for the wicked step-mother. Oh, and the guy who got decapitated). But mostly a happy ending.

It was good fun. Although I have to say, I thing Innogen was remarkably forgiving of her husband's whole 'order my faithful servant to murder my wife because I believed my Italian  acquaintance when he claimed he slept with her, without pausing to consider that he stood to lose 3,000 ducats and a lot of street cred if he admitted she turned him down' 

I particularly enjoyed the performances of Trevor Fox, as Posthumus's servant, Pisanio, Emily Barber as Innogen, and Eugene O'Hare as the underhand and scheming Iachimo (sporting a somewhat anachronistic plastic cast on one leg,  but not letting it slow him down in any way)

Very glad I went.

And then, after meeting up with A, and getting food (and conversation) we headed to the Duke of York's Theatre to see Dr. Faustus.

It's a very . .. interesting .. production. It combined Christopher Marlowe's original text (and Elizabethan language) for the first and last scenes, with middle scenes rewritten (in modern language)  by Colin Teevan, and features Faustus (Harington) achieving fame and fortune as a superstar stage magician.

There are topical references, to President Obama, Tony Blair, Cameron's tax affairs. It is not for the squeamish or easily offended. There are demons in grubby underwear (and at times in nothing at all), murders, suicide, rape, smoking. It was not quite what I as expecting, but very well done. 

Jenna Russell is superb as Mephistopheles - She, I think, is the real star of this show. Which is not to say that Harington isn't good; he is, but she is outstanding - I particularly enjoyed her comments to latecomers, returning to the stalls after the interval, as she sang, and her word-weary dealings with Faustus. 

(for those wondering, the full frontal nudity in the play is not that of Mr Harington, although he  does strip down to his underwear) 

I'm a little tempted now to book to see the RSC's production of the play, just for the contrast..

Oh, and kids, the takeaway message here is Just Say No to Pacts with Satan, especially when sealed with your own blood. It doesn't end well. 

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