Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 7.0655. Friday, 13 September 1996.
Date: Thursday, 12 Sep 1996 07:16:23 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: The New Globe
My wife and I were lucky to get front row gallery seats on the morning of the
August 25th performance of Two Gentlemen of Verona at the New Globe in London.
We found the production thrilling and memorable, its success due to fine
direction and exuberant acting clearly responsive to the remarkable theatrical
space. What I found most surprising was the expansiveness of the stage
area--in width, depth and height--and the apparant contraction the 1500 member
audience area. Two nights before we had sat in similarly located seats during
an excellent production of The White Devil at the small Swan theatre in
Stratford, but we felt closer to the actors and to the other members of the
audience at the Globe. Partly this is due, I think, to the unusual overhanging
gallery design which brings each tier 18 inches closer to the stage than the
one below it; partly it's due to the daylight lighting which doesnt
differentiate between audience and actors, emphasized in this case by the
actors wearing present day clothing. The fact that the groundlings are often
moving and carrying out their own dramatics--someone in the lower gallery
fainting and being revived by St John Ambulance volunteers; ushers ushering the
standees from sitting on the steps--enriches rather than detracts from the
spectacle. An unforgettable experience for me occurred at a moment in the last
act when the comedy turns tragic as the driven Proteus attempts to rape the
disoriented Sylvia. Their contorted struggles on the floor of the stage took
place inches away from the horrified faces of the spectators whose heads,
hands, and forearms were level with the rush strewn boards.
Until I saw this performance I shared the scepticism of many colleagues about
the Globe project. But now I see the point. Building and working with a space
that is this close to the original produces theatrical effects that cannot be
predicted or reproduced in any other way. It may also produce new insights
into Shakespeare's original intentions and methods.