Friday, December 2, 2011

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London

Centuries ago when audiences were a mixture of rich and poor, it cost but a penny to watch a play in Shakespeare's Globe Theatre on the banks of the Thames River. The poor, known as the 'groundlings', were expected to sit in the yard, an open space between the stage and the raised covered seating reserved for the affluent.

A replica of that Globe Theatre now stands on the precise spot where Shakespeare once produced his plays, and I, like a traditional groundling, sat in the yard and enjoyed my lunch - a pork pie and a bottle of pop - during a performance, just as the old-time groundlings would have done.

Modern day Groundling enjoying her
lunch at the Globe Theatre
Way back in the Middle Ages a visit to the theatre was an informal affair. The groundlings were at liberty to sit or stand, eat, talk, and heckle the actors, and we were allowed to do the same. I paid about $10 to see “The Maid's Tragedy' (not a Shakespeare play) performed much as it would have been in Elizabethan times.

During the performance, the dramatic sight of the Queen of Shadows rising out of a star-spangled sea of cloth, drew a small child in the audience to the front of the stage where she jumped and danced with excitement as the play progressed. Her screams of laughter drowned out the actors' words as a comical caricature of Neptune with bulging cheeks popped through a hole in the heaving cloth (representing the sea) and blew a spray of water over her.

Next, the sound of wind moaning as if in torment filled the theatre and from well disguised holes in the 'cloth sea', fish, trumpeters blowing a hasty fanfare, and monsters writhing and grimacing rose, then disappeared. Then slowly from above the stage, a woman with a hairdo resembling two triangular shaped horns descended through an overhead trap door and played her part whilst dangling from the dark blue ceiling with its painted moons, trumpeting angels, fish and curly-horned rams. It was extraordinary.
Photos copyright Anne Gordon
Posted by Anne Gordon on Friday, 2nd December, 2011.


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