Tuesday, June 30, 2009

As You Like It

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre on the South Bank in London is a complete recreation of how the Globe would have been in Shakespeare's time, all the way down to the use of wooden pegs instead of nails. The costumes are sewn in authentic Elizabethan style, and the stage is bare save for the decorative paintings that cover the entire inner building.

For five pounds, one can watch the show as the "groundlings" did: standing on the floor in the center of the circular theater, with no seats but standing and leaning on the stage. The authenticity of the experience sounds pretty exciting.

Sounds. Now, it was really hot in London today. Really hot. And I happen to be standing at the two o'clock matinee surrounded by Europeans who did not believe in deodorant. Authentic, no?So my experience with As You Like It, which was in fact a very fun, romantic show, was more concerned with my claustrophobia and horrified sense of smell (I actually had to step out the last few minutes of the first act to prevent myself from being sick).

But the performance itself was a fun and clever presentation of the romantic comedy, and despite my discomfort I found myself laughing constantly. At the end of the show, once everyone was happily married off, the cast danced jubilantly in lieu of bows (which, in London, are apparently typically ten minute affairs with multiple encores), clearly just having a great time on stage and with each other.

I would easily return to the Globe, even as a groundling, at an evening performance or at a midnight matinee (apparently they occasionally have shows for the matinee price that start at midnight and end with breakfast, since the sun rises so early here). But on a hot day at two, people pressing in on each other to try to stand under very limited shade felt more like an unpleasant ride on the Tube than a Shakespearean theater experience.

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