By: William Shakespeare
Directed by: Dominic Dromgoole
Venue: Globe Theatre
Date: Friday 14th September 2007
I was really worried after the opening scenes of this performance. I like this play, yet I was finding it incredibly dull, and wondering if I wanted to stay for the rest of it. The opening scene had raised some laughs from the groundlings, over facial expressions I couldn’t see, and Don Armado had just not found my funny bone. Then the women arrived, and the whole performance took off. Not my favourite production, perhaps, but still an enjoyable afternoon, give or take.
To get the problems out of the way – with more people at this performance, I found the seats more uncomfortable, with less room to move around. The headset was working, but apparently an alarm went off, causing several very loud beeps to come through my headphones, so I switched the headset off for a couple of minutes. The beeps had gone when I switched it back on, and there were no more problems there, thank goodness. Also, there seems to be something about the Globe this year – every time we’ve been there, at least one person has had to be helped out, suffering in some way. It could be the heat, I suppose, but even Steve was feeling funny today, and that’s not usual for him. Today’s walking wounded was a young man, and I found myself wondering if anyone was keeping statistics on the health problems experienced there. Which brings me to the final problem. At the first glimpse of sunshine, the stewards start passing sunhats round, which is fine when it’s before the performance, but when it’s already started, it can be quite a distraction. Together with all the other comings and goings, it took us a while to feel involved in this performance.
Now for the good bits. The set was lovely. Two “knot paths” led out from the stage in a zigzag pattern, creating a triangular section in front of the stage for groundlings to cluster in. The walkways were great for the actors to come out from the stage, and there were steps at the end of each walkway for easy access in both directions. Before the start, we were treated to some music, and a couple of deer in puppet form – they reminded us both of the Little Angel puppetry, though not so detailed. The stag came on first, and was curious about the musicians before checking out the audience. I thought some folk would have stroked its nose, but no one seemed inclined to try it. Then the doe came on, and they went through a lovely courtship routine, very well done. Eventually, they went off, and the play started.
Michelle Terry played an excellent Princess of France. Normally subordinate to Rosalind dramatically speaking, this one was definitely in charge. She did have a good sense of humour, but she could throw a real strop when she wanted to, which was fairly often. She really ticks off Boyet at the start, but she doesn’t hold a grudge, and when it comes to the bread fight, she’s geared up like a Gatling gun. The pigeons got even more bread today. I got more of the sense that she’s not impressed by the King of Navarre, and doesn’t respect him for breaking his vows so easily. She holds sway over the whole performance, and partly for that reason, the men this time seem rather flabby.
To be fair, one of the men was injured today, so that probably cramped their style a bit. On the other hand, he did make good use of his crutches, and his difficulties in hiding during the discovery scene added to the fun. He had to scuttle pretty quickly round the pillar, and at one point held his arms up and pretended to be a statue. I don’t know if that’s how he does it when his leg’s fine, but perhaps it will be now. Jaquenetta and Costard were less noticeable this time around, and I didn’t get the feeling of sympathy for Don Armado with his lack of a shirt. The schoolmaster and his crony were OK, the Worthies were OK, and the atmosphere changed suitably when the announcement of the French King’s death was made. The final challenges to the men were apt, although I don’t know how a Princess of her brainpower could really expect a king to live as a hermit for a whole year. Apart from his lack of purpose, there’s a state to run! I do wish we had the sequel.
© 2007 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me