It took me well into the afternoon to realise the connection between seeing Love’s Labour’s Lost at the Globe and Doctor Who (it’s the play that they did before the Doctor met William Shakespeare in the recent series). That said if I were collecting Doctor Who connections with this play I could point out that I saw John Barrowman as Dumaine in the play four years ago. God this is the second time I’ve started with an anecdote about Doctor Who (note to self – get a life).
My afternoon’s realisation did start a familiar train of thought about the way they recreate the theatre audiences of Shakespeare’s day on TV and film. I’m not sure that they do the bad teeth anymore – rotten teeth were solely a rich person’s affliction before sugar became widespread and affordable. If I have problems with the way that the audience is depicted it’s the women, who have been allowed in the galleries but wouldn’t have been in the pit unless they had something to sell (oranges, their bodies etc.) and the general wealth of the pit audience. Although it was cheap, a penny (I think), to get into the pit, that penny had to be disposable income and since many people were getting paid just a few pounds a year a penny becomes a sizable chunk of cash (equivalent to about £10 nowadays, perhaps. The point is that the pit audience probably wouldn’t be filled with the dregs of society. Nowadays the pit seems to be full of students and tourists who probably don’t quite count as the dregs.
I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about the Globe, in that I reckon that Shakespeare wrote for both the courtyard style of theatre (i.e. derived from an inn courtyard), such as the Globe and the darkened hall, such as the Blackfriars theatre that he helped by late in his career or the halls of great houses where he’d give more intimate performances. These two approaches give a different style of play: in a courtyard the actors are very aware of the audience and the need to keep them attentive so that things like soliloquies could be thought of as one sided conversations; In a darkened hall soliloquies are addressed into nothingness (or the lighting gantry attached to the circle) and become more solitary. The thing is that after the Restoration and pretty much until now all theatre has been the “darkened hall” type; the audience reactions beyond laughter and applause in the right places becoming less and less acceptable.. Even open air theatres like Regent’s Park or Greek/Roman theatres expect the audiences to be quiet, attentive and invisible. With the Globe you could argue that they’ve reinvented the courtyard style of theatre where the audience becomes more of a participant, which is unfamiliar and possibly uncomfortable to both actors and critics. Of course there may be good reasons why courtyard theatres died out. They tend to encourage a raucous and pantomimic style of playing, where it is difficult to be quiet (especially at the Globe with its attendant aircraft going over head) and subtle and fine language loses out to playing things for laughs. That said I’m glad the Globe has a go.
This particular play certainly upped the laughter and pantomime at the expense of the dialogue but with Love’s Labour’s Lost and its rhyming verse-speak, I didn’t think it was necessarily a bad thing. There is rather too much of Shakespeare doing the ‘fooling’ stuff where people stand around to explain and analyse puns – was that ever funny? Everybody seemed to behaving a good time even if William Mannering as Longaville over did it slightly and sometimes gave the impression that he would rather be copping off with one of the men. On the other hand Timothy Walker (who I saw as Hamlet in a Cheek by Jowl production back in 1990) was almost too slow, melancholic and incomprehensible as the comedy Spaniard, Don Adriano.
Anybody thinking of the standing in the Pit should avoid standing too near the right hand (as you face the stage) zig-zag platform that comes out from the stage unless they are happy to see a very great deal of John Bett. I’m not sure if it was justified by the plot but it certainly got some shrieks and lots of laughter.
A name that jumped out at me in the cast list was Oona Chaplin, who played Katherine. And I do mean the name – I’m not sure I have anything bad or even good to say about her acting although she did mange to pull a string of pearls apart which may not have been intended. The only other Oona Chaplin I’ve heard of was Charlie Chaplin’s last wife and I thought it was unlikely that anyone other than a member of Charlie Chaplin’s family would name their daughter Oona so when I got home I checked the web and discovered that she was Geraldine Chaplin’s daughter (and thus Charlie and Oona’s granddaughter). Not that interesting, I know but watching her and wondering I couldn’t help feeling how unlike Charlie Chaplin she looked. Of course the same could be said for the statue of Charlie Chaplin in Leicester Square.
Oona Chaplin is Eugene O'Neill's great-grand-daughter. She looks like him.
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