Sunday, 24 April 2016

Shakespeare 400: The (in)Complete Walk

After I posted yesterday's Shakespeare musings (which had several typos that have now been corrected!), I got the train to London Bridge and met my friend who was trying to negotiate his way down to Southwark Cathedral. We walked along the river, and came across the first of many screens showing short scenes from Shakespeare's plays. This was Timon of Athens, and we were surprised that we had a good view - we expected it to be much more crowded. I apologise for the generally fuzzy quality of these photos - I only used the camera on my phone and I was pretty hasty.

As we got to the underpass, the crowd got bigger. Everyone was watching Twelfth Night apart from a handful of people who were trying to squeeze past. I pitied anyone who'd arranged to meet friends in Wagamama, not knowing what was going on today.

We went round the back streets and saw the site of the original Globe. It's one thing I love about London - it's so big and so steeped in history, you can often see things you'd never noticed before. Neither of us had noticed this before.

We went to the original Rose Theatre, where Shakespeare first put on his plays. After it had been developed in the 1500s, other theatres were built in the surrounding area, and the Rose Theatre declined in popularity and shut down (I worry the same thing will happen to the Bromley Empire cinema when the new multiplex is completed on the other side of town). They are raising money to preserve the theatre's history and develop it as a visitor attraction. They have open days every Saturday and put on performances at other times.

We saw Suzanne Marie perform Henry VI part I Act V scene III. She was captivating, but the intimate setting meant you could see nearby audience members' responses. There were two young children at the front who were nervous of her intensity and stifled giggles at her wailing. I liked their honest reactions. Then we saw Frank McHugh and Ellie Mason play a spellbinding and sexy Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in Act I scene VII, when (spoiler alert!) he wonders if he is really prepared to kill Duncan, but his wife mocks his doubting. Personally, I hear her words differently from how they were perhaps intended. For me:

Lady Macbeth:  ...I have given suck, and know
How tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me.
I would, while it was smiling in my face,
Have plucked my nipple from his boneless gums
And dashed the brains out, had I so sworn as you
Have done to this.

isn't a sign that she was born the devil incarnate (a phrase from Titus Andronicus, fact fans!), but a woman who experienced a horrific loss that has eaten up her soul. I've just done a bit of research and have found Jude Kelly's production that considers just this.

We needed tea afterwards, and went to the cafe at Shakespeare's Globe theatre, where there was standing room only. We people-watched while we drank - it was during the interval of Hamlet, but even so, I don't think we've ever seen The Globe so heaving during the day. It was brilliant.

There were several people outside carrying a white or red rose. Not sure who was giving them out, but presumably something to do with The War of the Roses, the Houses of York and Lancaster, and St George's Day or Shakespeare's history plays? Anyhow, a lot of people decided to leave their rose on the gates of The Globe, which was a beautiful sight.

We carried on walking and watching the short films that formed The Complete Walk. Unfortunately many of the screens outside Tate Modern weren't working, so we missed out on Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and Henry V. But we saw Hamlet!

At this point I became a bit of a wuss re: the cold. I had dressed warmly, but didn't wear gloves (it's the end of April! Midsummer is two months away!) and despite keeping my hands in my pockets, I was starting to feel uncomfortably cold. We headed back towards Borough, and joined this huge crowd watching Othello. "It's like a football match," said my friend. We didn't attempt to navigate through the crowd, but went up and down the stairs to Southwark Bridge instead.

And finally, this was a lovely end to the day - Elbow in Measure for Measure making the crowd laugh outside the FT building. It was the end to my day, anyway; after my friend and I had something to eat at Borough Market, he headed back to join the queue for returns at The Globe. I went home and warmed up with a coffee!

Elbow: If it please your honour, I am the poor Duke's constable, and my
name is Elbow; I do lean upon justice, sir, and do bring in here
before your good honour two notorious benefactors.

Angelo: Benefactors! Well; what benefactors are they? Are they not

Elbow: If it please your honour, I know not well what they are; but
precise villains they are, that I am sure of; and void of all
profanation in the world that good Christians ought to have.

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