Review: Twelfth Night, Shakespeare’s Globe

“And all is semblative a woman’s part”

Mark Rylance’s much-trumpeted double-bill return to Shakespeare’s Globe this summer started with Richard III but it is now the turn of the belated second part to make its bow. Tim Carroll’s revival  of Twelfth Night, originally seen in 2002, largely uses the same all-male company and the same Original Practices approach of ‘doing it like it’s 1601’ for a short run – all sold out – before transferring into the West End. With a view to this, official press reviews will come from the Apollo rather than the Globe, so heaven know if this counts as a preview or not. Oh and in the interest of full disclosure and as heretical as it may be, I am not really a fan of Mark Rylance, just so you know. I do try to test my dislikes though, in the spirit of open-mindedness, something made much more palatable here by the £5 groundling tickets.

The choice of interpretation might strike a casual observer as typical for the Globe, even a little unimaginative, given the wide variety of Shakespearean re-imaginings on offer, but that would be underestimate the incredible level of detailed work that has gone on here at all levels. Liam Brennan imbues Orsino with a much greater deal of personality than is often granted to this lovesick Lord, making him a constant point of interest; Colin Hurley’s Sir Toby Belch reins in the boisterousness to construct a much more interesting character; Feste’s presence possesses an intriguing ambivalence in Peter Hamilton Dyer’s hands; and James Garnon makes one notice Fabian more than I’ve ever done before. Continue reading “Review: Twelfth Night, Shakespeare’s Globe”

Review: Richard III, Shakespeare’s Globe

“And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house…”

The last time I was at the Globe (for Henry V), I made the mistake of mentioning that I had never actually been rained on whilst being a groundling. This time round, for the opening night of Richard III, we made it to the second half quite dry but then the heavens opened and I was forced to use my delightful yellow poncho whilst proved little respite against a rather heavy and sustained fall of rain which made me long for the hard comfort of the Globe’s (covered) seating. This Richard III is notable for seeing the return of Mark Rylance to the theatre where he was Artistic Director for 10 years where this all-male Original Practices-exploring company will also take on Twelfth Night later in the season and then transfer both to the West End.

Given the tragic news just last week of the death of his stepdaughter, it is hard to know what to say or how to pitch any comments about Rylance. Though it is probably close to heretical to admit it, I’m not actually that big a fan of him as an actor, having found him too dominant a presence on stages before for my liking at least, but given that for once this is actually a play where that is the intention, I was willing to give this a try. Using the types of costumes and props that would have been available in 1593, Rylance sports a false arm complete with teeny withered hand (I jested at the interval that this is him saying ‘look, I can even do Shakespeare with one arm behind my back…’) and a rather muted demeanour as he limps and shuffles around the stage. Continue reading “Review: Richard III, Shakespeare’s Globe”

Review: Edward II, Shakespeare’s Globe

So my second trip to the Globe took me to Edward II, a play by Christopher Marlowe which was another all-male production and actually carried over almost the entire cast from Richard II which was a nice touch I hadn’t realised until I got there. I like the idea of a company doing more than one play as it means that the bonds within the group have time to really develop and become something more special than if just for a short run.

Covering most of the key events of Edward II’s reign, the play hooks around the relationship between the King and his favourite, Piers Gaveston who was showered with love, gifts, lands and titles by his royal lover. Though interestingly, the shock value from the play would originally have come from the social/class barriers that were breached rather than the sexual ones, as the barons and lords of the court would have been outraged at the fact that Gaveston was of lowly birth rather than the fact that he was a man. For at the heart of this play is a debate about politics and the lengths to which the establishment will protect what they see as theirs by right.

The relationship between Edward and Gaveston is perfectly played and completely unafraid of being physical. Gerard Kyd as the favourite brings a fabulous energy and a freedom to his movement and behaviour which instantly sets him apart from the rest of the staid court. And with Liam Brennan’s touching King matching him for passion, their’s was a moving, believable relationship. The rather refreshing liberal take on homosexuality both in the play and this production was negated somewhat by the giggling tourist-heavy audience of the Globe though.

But there is much else to the play, with the viciousness that spurned wife and Queen Isabella pursues the downfall of her errant husband’s lover and then the King himself as she takes her own lover, the fiercely ambitious baron Mortimer. Justin Shelvin was convincing as the tyrannical baron, but I wasn’t too sure about Chu Omambala as the Queen, not really hitting the emotional depths of either despair or vengeance, literally being outshone in every sense by Gerard Kyd’s Gaveston. The all-male casting actually didn’t make that much of a difference in the end, which I suppose is the point, it felt natural and worked with the material.

I loved being a groundling again, even with a show that was over three hours, as it was very musical with lots of drums, tribal dancing to represent battles and being up close to the actors makes me feel a little sorry for the people who are sat down on the hard wooden benches!

Review: Richard II, Shakespeare’s Globe

In a season entitled Regime Change, the all-male company are tackling Richard II, Shakespeare’s fast and loose take on the life of headstrong Richard II, this historical figure whose autocratic rule and unconventional approach to matters of state led to his cousin Bolingbroke, the future Henry IV, deposing him with the help of a large faction of his family: this schism forming the basis for the long-running Wars of the Roses. On a personal note, this was my first trip to the Globe and standing in the Yard was the only way to get in so I took a packed lunch and wore some comfortable shoes!

Mark Rylance takes on the title role and it is very much his show and this came across as both a good thing and something of a negative too. He dominates proceedings as this melancholy monarch who is lacking the political nous to deal with the challenges in his kingdom, thereby minimising the role of Bolingbroke somewhat rather than presenting them as two sides of the same coin: for indeed both of these men come to learn the same lessons, about the loneliness of the realities of being king. Continue reading “Review: Richard II, Shakespeare’s Globe”