Oh hey, so I went on a backstage tour of Shakespeare’s Globe...
…and I totally forgot to upload the photos til now.
Let’s start in the ‘heavens’ right up top, where the cast pour libations for Dionysus before each run:
There’s also a bell made by the same company that made the original Globe’s bell, and a trap that goes right down to the stage. Someone fell down there during the opening season and broke their leg, and there followed a spate of leg/foot-related injuries until Mark Rylance called in a shaman, made a little paper replica of the Globe (complete with teeny paper players) and performed a secret ceremony before hiding the whole thing in the rafters. It’s still there, apparently, but no one knows where it is.
(Spot the gold confetti leftover from Charles Edward’s Richard II… It’s EVERYWHERE.)
View from the musician’s balcony. In the original theatre, wealthy playgoers could sit up here to show off their outfits to the audience. Ditto in the pretty painted boxes to the immediate left and right of the balcony:
Next: backstage. Are you ready?
(There are grease-stains above those little square windows because actors lean their foreheads against them to peek out at the stage, listening for their cue…)
View from the stage. Imagine the yard filled with groundlings…
The fucking detail…
I wanted to stroke the walls. And hump a pillar. And lie on the stage and cry. But I restrained myself. I am a professional.
Then we went down into ‘hell’, under the stage, where no one has swept since forever and there is still SO MUCH RICHARD II GLITTER.
(The tour guide told a great story about logistics of rigging up plastic drainpipes that stretched to each of the four corners of the stage so that Hamlet’s ghost could be lowered down into the trap and deliver his “SWEAR!” lines from different locations without having to scurry about under the stage. It is TIGHT under there.)
Finally: props department. I tried to hide behind a stack of shoes so that I’d get left behind and could live out my days as a little Globe hermit but they found me.
We got to feel up some of the costumes though - all made by hand with authentic materials and techniques of Shakespeare’s time - aaand none of them can be washed (vodka and febreeze ftw). Each principle actor gets a handmade, tailored outfit of their very own to the cost of about £3,000 each. Rylance’s Prospero robes cost EIGHTEEN FUCKING GRAND.
*curtsies* I've never been able to get into Shakespeare and I've been told that it's because I've never seen a performance and that watching a play would help greatly since Shakespeare was meant to be performed. Do you find that holds true?
*Curtsies* Shakespeare’s plays were never meant to be read by a bunch of students sitting at desks in classrooms or what have you. They were meant to be seen and heard and experienced. In fact, most accounts from early modern playgoers talk about going to hear a play, not to see it. So while the visuals are definitely important, hearing the text spoken by an actor who really knows what they’re doing is even more important. When James Shapiro came to do his talk at the Globe someone asked him a similar question and he said, “Anyone who thinks they don’t understand Shakespeare has simply never seen it done well,” and then proceeded to talk about a workshop he did of Much Ado for an audience of inmates at Rikers Island. A lot of the men in this group had never read or seen any play before, let alone Shakespeare, and they went wild. They loved it–they were stomping and cheering and heckling the characters and 100% into it. And that’s how Shakespeare should be. So keep an eye on the theatre reviews and if there’s something in your area that sounds good, go! There’s nothing like it.
A while ago, shakespeareismyjam posted or reblogged something discussing whether Romeo and Juliet should be read as a tragedy or a condemnation of the recklessness of love. It was a fascinating question and one I’ve been chewing over for a while.
Personally, I think the play is a tragedy - or more precisely, a thwarted comedy. Look, we have a hell of a setup for the first two, three acts - similar to Jessica and Lorenzo in Merchant of Venice, actually. Families that hate each other, oh look young love - we know this story. Elizabethan playgoers especially know this story (see also: commedia dell’arte, which often has a similar setup). We know how it’s supposed to end, but we also know that it doesn’t end that way - thanks Prologue. You know the old thing about how you tell a story? You put your characters in a tree, you throw stones at them, you get them down. Shakespeare puts Romeo and Juliet and hell, all of Verona in a tree, throws stones at them, and then chops the fucking tree down.
Anyway. Do I think R+J has some interesting things to say about how bloody stupid teenagers can be when they’re in love? Of course, but I don’t really think that’s the point. The point is the feud. All the stupid, reckless things our inamoratae do would turn out just fine in any other play - except for the feud. That is the tragedy of this play, not that Romeo and Juliet die, which is sad, but the larger point is that prejudice and blind loathing made that outcome inevitable. Without the feud - well, you know that, you’ve seen that play. The Nurse and Friar Laurence help our young lovers run circles around their silly families, there are comic misunderstandings that almost ruin everything but get resolved just in time, probably someone crossdresses, and many dick jokes are had by all. The feud frustrates what would otherwise be inevitable, and substitute it with something fucking terrible. That is the tragedy, the frustration, and the genius of this play.
TL;dr: Romeo and Juliet is not a story where love conquers all. It’s a story where hate spoils everything.
“If you want proof that a thing of beauty is a joy for ever, you have only to witness Vivien Leigh’s third act entrance in The Doctor’s Dilemma when she makes her first appearance after the death of her artist-husband, wholeheartedly obeying his request that she wear no mourning. Her dress is a blaze of cerise, with a corsage of garnets, while emeralds the size and shape of walnuts glitter in suspension from her delicate ears. Back in the Nineties playgoers used to gasp as Mrs. Patrick Campbell made her electrifying scarlet cloaked entrance in The Second Mrs. Tanqueray. And now to-day far more sophisticated wartime audiences at the Haymarket still gasp when Vivien Leigh appears as the widowed Mrs. Dubedat.” (Theatre World, October 1942)