The necessity of finishing my tale has been hanging over me all week; I cannot write about anything else until the story is finished. That won’t be today; maybe tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. It’s creeping in at a petty pace from day to day, probably to the last syllable of recorded time. Don’t forget, it is a tale told by an idiot.
At about quarter-past the pizza, a cheerful young woman allowed us into the Globe’s outer yard, maintaining the queue order, so that we were able to mock those who left it too late to get the best spot. Spud and I took turns going to the loo in the thirty minutes before we were allowed into the theatre courtyard. We were amused to notice our tame writer’s partner leaning on the stage during the final waiting period, still reading his book. Clearly not his first visit.
It was not the first visit of the young Michigan student standing next to me, either; but she had brought along her family, over here on a visit while she was at a London university as a post-graduate*, to experience the wonder. That was more like it. None of your jaded theatre-goer world-weariness for me, thank you very much. YMS’s father could have done without the whole thing, Spud suspected; but he obviously loved his daughter enough to endure the tedium. Not to worry: in theatre-going accounts, Spud and I enjoyed it enough for a thousand bored fathers.
*Strangers spend five minutes chatting with me and find themselves exchanging Christmas cards for life.
Spud and I had selected our spot during the morning’s tour and we made straight for it. Here is my view of the stage, taken at my eye line:
It was perfect. In case you are wondering why the Hub was too stingy to splurge for seats, let me explain something…on my previous visit to the Globe, during my Open University Shakespeare course summer school, the OU bought a bunch of tickets and we sat at random. I had a great view of the stage and even a cushion for comfort, but I spent the first half of Othello envying the groundlings (cash-poor people who stand in the yard to watch) and how close to the stage they were. During the interval, I forewent my toilet break in favour of squeezing into a minute gap, up against the stage. It was everything I hoped it would be.
When the Hub asked me where I’d like to sit this time, I insisted on a groundling ticket. The great Sam Wanamaker,
when he conceived of the Globe, insisted that there should always be 700 tickets at a fiver each, so that no one would be precluded by price from enjoying the Bard. What a visionary he was; and how disgusted the Hub was that my great Golden Birthday treat only cost him a tenner.
Fortunately, as I might have mentioned, I made up for it by hammering his credit card while I was away, which made him feel much better.
The play began; as did Spud’s initiation into the wonder that is real, live theatre, complete with interaction between actors and audience – two separate actors spoke directly to him; and he was particularly thrilled when the drunken Porter raised a huge laugh, by pointing Spud out as a fool.
Apart from one actor, who shall remain nameless – even though I could name him because it’s not like a poor review from a semi-anonymous blogger is going to have any effect on his career, is it? – the acting was superb. Macbeth was edgy, intense, manic and eventually unhinged. Good-looking, too, though the Hub disputes that. Funnily enough, the Hub never agrees with me about good-looking men: for some reason, he is incredulous whenever I describe another man as good-looking. How peculiar.
What was not attractive about Macbeth was his bodily fluid – much of which we ended up wearing as he enunciated and emoted liberally across the whole stage. It must be why so few people tried to jostle to the front. Joseph Millson’s Macbeth was snotty, drooly, spitty and weepy. Three more fluids and he’d have had his own set of dwarves. But he was mesmerising. He was Macbeth. Despite an almost bare stage and just a couple of props, we were there with him, feeling every emotion, sharing in the horror of the murders, the fear, the paranoia…. The play was also funny in the most deliberate but unexpected way.
The music was excellent; all live, played on the balcony; helping to create the atmosphere. I loved the unexpected movements at the end of the play, performed by all of the actors and eventually becoming the jig.
This jig is from Richard II but it will give you an idea of what happens:
I had not mentioned the jig to Spud, wanting it to be a surprise (if you don’t know, all theatre at that time ended in a jig, presumably to send the audience home in a good mood). He loved it. He loved the play, he loved the theatre, he loved the whole experience.
I wish I had taken a picture of him in that moment, to show you the joy and wonder on his face; it was the best birthday present the Hub has ever given me.