Theatre Since I don’t want to spoil the experience through the kind of over-analysis that usually smears itself across this 480 pixel width column (or whatever it will be when I redesign the template in the future) here are just five things about the Shakespeare’s Globe’s touring production of Henry V as it appeared at the Liverpool Playhouse last night.
(1) Globe Theatre on Tour
Liverpool’s privileged to be given the opportunity to see this production before its summer season in the Globe, especially since this is the first of these touring exhibitions to pitch up here. Rather than offer a more conventional staging, designer Jonathan Fensum and the Globe’s artistic director Dominic Dromgoole have attempted as best they can to recreate the unique open air experience of seeing a Globe production within a proscenium arch theatre. They’ve achieved this by recreating, simplified, a section of the Globe’s stage as the set and keeping the house lights up in auditorium for the duration so that the production becomes more of a communal experience rather than something which is simply being presented to us.
(2) The Audience
But for much of the show, normal rules applied. At the real Globe the actors often have to fight against the mass of people and the usual environmental noises of the Southbank, interacting with them to keep the interest up just as would have happened in Shakespeare’s day. As in London, part of the action happens within the stalls, the characters running in an out of the audience, playing music. Yet for much of the show unless they were reacting to story or performances, the audience was so quiet and attentive I could actually hear the man sitting next to me breathing. Believe me, this isn’t a complaint. After my rubbish audience experiences (which to some extent included the Globe itself) being able to concentrate on the actors without a couple of rudesters having a chat nearby was an utter pleasure.
(3) The Prices
The other way the conventional theatre won out is in the ticket prices. The Globe replicates the economies of scale of the 1600s, the Groundlings in the yard, closest to the action paying a fiver, the prices increasing with the comfort of the seating. At the Playhouse, the best seats in the stalls were £17 on a weekday. I paid £15. The cheap seats in the gods were a tenner. Again, this isn’t a complaint. I got my money’s worth. Sitting in a relatively comfy seats is certainly preferable to standing on concrete for three hours. But I wonder if the company had considered playing a concert venue like the old Royal Court in Liverpool, without seating in the stalls, so that more people could stand at the edge of the stage, justifying a more Jacobean pricing structure.
(4) The Jig
The audience didn’t seem to know what to do with the jig at the end. At the actual Globe, it’s a moment of gleeful release in which the audience claps in time to this sudden burst of action from the cast, in which the temporary (if artificial) community we’ve developed across the three hours passage of the production offers a final farewell. At the Playhouse, as the jig began the audience just viewed it as part of the production, an esoteric addition. I was desperate to clap along as I even do when watching past productions on blu-ray (yes, indeed), but the group mentality got to me, so I simply tapped along with my foot. But there were smiles, we all seemed to enjoy it as did the actors, so perhaps that’s enough.
(5) Who’s in it from Doctor Who?
You'll no doubt be as pleased as I am to discover that my unbroken run of seeing plays at the theatre with actors who’ve been in Doctor Who is still unbroken. To the Tardis Index File, go:
Brid Brennan (Chorus / Queen Isabel)
Was the Visionary in DW: The End of Time.
Sam Cox (Pistol)
Was Detective Inspector Bishop in DW: The Idiot's Lantern.
At Big Finish:
James Lailey (Earl of Westmoreland / Captain Macmorris) was Minister Pryce in Excelis Rising and The Stone's Lament.
Jamie Parker (King Henry V) was Wulfric in Big Finish's Leviathan and Major Richter in BFA: The Architects of History.
Roger Watkins (Constable of France / Governor of Harfleur) was Garstang in the Gracless spin-off series.