Monday, May 11, 2015

The Globe x 2 April 2015 The Merchant of Venice, and Romeo and Juliet, April 2015

               It’s like coming home, returning to the Globe. Sadly our hotel was farther away this time so we didn’t have the opportunity to pop in five or ten times a day as we did the two previous times but we were there often.  And we saw two plays, this time with friends from Sweden. What an immense pleasure it was to share our love of the Globe with them.  Some of them had never been to the Globe and I’m pleased to report that they all enjoyed it immensely. I hope we can do it again.
            Already I’m longing to return and my heart yearns to the plays we won’t be seeing this year but I’m glad we saw the two we did.
So here is my report:

  • Directed by: Dominic Dromgoole
  • Cast: Shylock – Jonathan Pryce; Antonio – Dominic Mafham; Portia – Rachel Pickup; Bassanio – Daniel Lapaine; Launcelot Gobbo – Stefan Adegbola; Jessica – Phoebe Pryce; Nerissa – Dorothea Myer-Bennett; Prince of Morocco – Scott Karim; Lorenzo – Ben Lamb; Gratiano – Daniel Sturzaker; Prince of Arragon – Christopher Logan
  • Seen: April 26, 2015 

Ah, the Globe. I’m as much in love with it as always. The Merchant of Venice is our sixth play here and as with all the others I’m curious about how they are going to do it.
Quite straightforwardly, as it turns out.  That’s fine with me.
It’s a great privilege to see Jonathan Pryce as Shylock. He fulfils my high expectations but unfortunately he’s not given his full role.  Several vital lines are cut from his two important monologs – or else I miss them because his back is turned to where we are sitting.  Bad stage direction. Jonathan Pryce and Shylock deserve better.
Portia is a disappointment with her pale hamminess and somewhat unsubtle nastiness as the learned doctor. Bassanio is a bit of a bore but then so he is as a character. He’s one of Shakespeare’s prat romantic lads. Antonio is, well, he’s middle-of-the-road here. He does nasty and piteous as he should.
But what do all of these complaints matter in the midst of the brilliant Launcelot, the loveable Prince of Morocco, the hilarious Prince of Arragon, the burlesque Gratiano and the excellent Nerissa?  A better cast of secondary characters is hard to imagine.  They all have us roaring with laughter through much of the play.
The laughter dies abruptly at the end with the grieving Jessica singing mournfully in Hebrew as Shylock is marched out on stage, stripped of everything but a white robe, to be christened. None of it is in Shakespeare’s original but it’s really not possible to do this play nowadays without making this statement.  Father and daughter Pryce-Shylock-Jessica are magnificent and the ending is very, very strong.
  • Directed by: Dominic Dromgoole and Tim Hoare
  • Cast: Romeo – Samuel Valentine; Juliet – Cassie Layton; Nurse/Lady Montague/Balthazar – Sarah Higgins: Friar Laurence/Benvolio – Tom Kanji; Mercutio/Prince/Apothecary – Steffan Donnelly; Paris/Tybalt/Montague/Peter – Matt Doherty
  • Seen: April 27, 2015 

The cast prance onto the stage, each with a musical instrument, playing a lively tune. The audience, already in fine high spirit, applaud wildly.
Is that Juliet playing the saxophone? It is, indeed.
How to do this most renowned romantic comedy/tragedy?  Again Dromgoole chooses the simple approach.  Early 20th century beige trousers and braces, white shirts. Renaissance robes, ruffs and single puffed sleeves donned and removed as needed to indicate festivities or a different character.
Everyone has large elaborate tattoos. Do they really? Or is it part of the décor? I don’t know but never mind.  I like tattoos.
You know the play.  It’s lucky I do because many of the actors are so hard to hear and the Nurse’s dialect is thick enough to cut with a knife. No matter. The play itself has far too many words in it anyway so understanding half is about enough.
Romeo is ginger-haired, very non-Latin-pretty-boy, and is a most charming Romeo.  Juliet, though hard to hear at times, is perhaps the best Juliet I have ever seen. She’s cheeky, earnest, utterly devastated by the tragedies.
This performance is one of the previews and the cast are in boisterous spirits.  They are really having fun.
It must be difficult to make this play fresh. They succeed very nicely.

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