The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0645  Monday, 13 July 1998.

From:           Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Saturday, 11 Jul 1998 18:05:01 -0400
Subject:        The New Globe 1998

I spent a lovely Fourth of July weekend in London, principally to take
in the 1998 Shakespearean productions at The Globe.  It was well worth
it, and the criticisms that follow should be regarded as mere quibbles.

Authenticity Deferred:  I expected the carpet of hazelnut shell compost
to be in place, but it wasn't.  A footnote in the program explains that
this has been postponed until later in the season, as "a trial laying of
substances showed the need for further research."  As the groundlings
customarily relieve their sore feet be sitting on the ground in the yard
during intervals, the research should probably also include an
investigation of the effects of the substance on clothing.

Authenticity Enhanced:  After only one official season of attempting to
recreate the ambiance of the original Globe (at least in Henry V), the
authorities have figured out a way to improve on the original.  They
added a bank of steps running the length of the front of the stage, at
least for AYLI (I don't recall if they were there for M/V).  In addition
to providing seats for the groundlings during the intervals (see above),
this "experiment in the use of the space" (AYLI program note) is used to
facilitate entrances and exits through the yard.  This was done to good
advantage in AYLI, which also used the yard as part of the performance
area for the wrestling match.  But if the goal is to recreate the
original as closely as possible, ....

Authenticity Disregarded:  last season's Henry V used male actors for
the female roles, and it worked in the context of that play (which has
few female characters and none in leading parts), and for the purpose of
showing us as closely as possible what the original looked like.  But
when it comes to female leading roles, a more modern approach is in
order, and thankfully, the producers gave us one.  Anastasia Hille as
Rosalind is especially enchanting:  Bubbly, natural, sexy and oh so
feminine in a way no modern male actor can replicate.  It would be
"interesting" to see a man playing Rosalind dressed as Ganymede
pretending to be Rosalind, but I would rather see Anastasia do it,
especially when she nearly removes her breeches to remind Celia of her
femaleness.  By the way, was the underwear authentic, as it was said to
be in Henry V?  My only criticism of Ms. Hille's performance was that
she wasn't especially believable as a boy ... I didn't imagine that
Orlando thought she was male.  But, on the whole, it is worth a trip
just to see her.

Authenticity Compromised:  Whoever were responsible for Merchant seems
to have gone out of their way to give us a rainbow coalition of actors,
probably to make some vague social or political point.  When the actors
were good it didn't matter, and the good actors happened to be those
whose ethnicity matched the characters:  A German Shylock and an Italian
Launcelot Gobbo.  Both of these were excellent, although I agree Stuart
Manger that Marcello Magni as Launcelot said much more than was "writ
down for him."  And, Stuart take note, in the performance I saw (which
was not the same one you describe-no one tossed bottles on the stage),
Norbert Kentrup (Shylock) also left out the urine/bagpipe lines, so it
probably wasn't a lapse of memory.  I also wonder why these particular
lines were selected for excision.  Kentrup also had an original take on
"My deeds upon my head ..." which suggests that Shylock would have been
driven to mercy by Portia's speech under different circumstances.  My
main objection is to the African/Carribean Lorenzo and  Gratiano and the
dark Indian Salerio, none of whom could match the rest of the cast in
acting skill.  The beginning of II.vi resembled nothing so much as a
minstrel show.  And Kentrup's "You have among you many a purchased
slave...," which he addressed to Gratiano, could not capture the right
tone despite an excellent reading.  As for Mark Rylance as Bassiano ....
well, Mark is a likable person and an agreeable actor, but his range,
which extends all the way from A to B, was not up to the role.  But the
audience was not left in doubt about the sincerity of his passionate
speeches-he raised his voice.  He did get to wear a rather dramatic hat
though, and he likes hats.

A note in response to Steve Urkowitz's inquiry about good restaurants in
Southwark:  You must be kidding!  There is an acceptable pub/restaurant
near The Clink, but you would be better off sticking to the restaurants
north of the river.

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