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SHAKESPEARE GLOBE CENTRE

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      30.08.2001 16:08
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      Well, this was wonderful. Having not had the chance to see Shakespeare performed live before, I jumped at the opportunity of booking of two tickets to see King Lear at the Globe Theatre when I heard they cost only £5. Why so cheap ? Well, the Globe is a recreation of the original Globe of Shakespeare's day, so has a 'yard' area in front of the stage where people can stand and walk about freely. The yard is great. Not only does it give the best view (the seated tickets, ranging from £11 to £27, have a line of sight often obscured by pillars), it is also much closer to the action and subsequently more fun. Standing up for 3 hours may seem off-putting, but you'll find yourself so engrossed with the play that your achy legs are the last thing on your mind. Anyway, King Lear. The plot is simple. Lear, aging and deteriorating in health, wishes to divide his kingdom amongst his daughters, and asks them to put forward their reasons for having the largest share. Two of them oblige with flattering responses, the third, sickened by their greed and manipulation, says nothing. Outraged, Lear banishes her from the court while the other two sisters plot against him. What follows is a tragic, compelling tale of treachery and loyalty, manipulation and murder, father-daughter love, and above all the descent into madness of a disillusioned man. From the outset the audience are drawn into the action. The theatre is small, so the actors are able to turn to confide their thoughts in the audience with a rare intimacy, who feel by turns confidants and conspirators. Entrances and exits are often made through the yard, with soldiers barging their way through the audience on more than one occasion, and there's an almost irresistable urge to follow them up on to the stage. This is storytelling at its best. And when good storytelling is combined with a great story then you've got something special. The tale of King Lear is a dark and
      desperate one, with the gaping chasm of madness at its core. Julian Glover is wonderful in capturing the descent into that chasm. One moment in particular springs to mind, when he turns to some undefined point in the air, warning himself "No, I must not follow that thought. That way madness lies" (or words to that effect). In that single line he captures so brilliantly his consciousness of his own predicament that I felt like weeping. And there is plenty more here to weep over. There is murder here. The first brought out a gasp of horror from the audience, so sudden its event and so unfair its victim. The others that followed seemed increasingly inevitable, and the climax was truly tragic. Oh, and the storm scene. Lear is out in a wild stormy night (captured magnificently by the thunderous drums being played around the theatre's edge). He is alone, lost and confused, in terrible awe of the fury of the elements. What made the scene doubly effective on this occasion is while Lear battles the wind and rain, the audience stood before him are sweating profusely in the hottest day London has had in 60 years. Suddenly that close proximity between actors and audience evaporated, the two of them standing literally in different elements. It is that which makes theatre, and in particular outdoor theatre, so unique. Those unplanned juxtapositions which can bring new dimensions to a scene, moments as unrepeatable as the weather they are played under. I believe Macbeth is playing at the Globe this month, so if you're visiting London I thoroughly recommend you give it a try, rain or shine. I promise you won't regret it. Shakespeare's Globe Official Website: http://www.shakespeares-globe.org/

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