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Shakespeare's Globe

2011 Season

The Word is God

Image of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre 2010


This year's season was called "The Word is God" which is described by Dominic Dromgoole as "... celebrating the word, and man's capacity to make a god of language, and to make a god out of language". It was four hundred years since the King James Bible was published.

The season's productions are:-

The Bible

To mark the four hundredth anniversary of the publication of the King James version of the Bible, actors recited the entire text starting with Genesis and Exodus on Palm Sunday April 17th right through to the end of the New Testament on Easter Monday 25th April.



A touring production performed by only a handful of players opened the season. It was directed by Globe Artistic Director Dominic Dromgoole and lasted two hours fifty minutes when I saw it.

The portable set designed by Jonathan Fensom was fixed in the centre of the Globe stage and looked a little lost. It's a wooden scaffold plus a curtain used to good effect in the play-within-a-play; Claudius and Gertrude are played by the same actors portraying the Player King and Queen (if you follow!) and both couples appear in the scene. The super fast character changes behind the curtain are necessary due to the total cast numbering just eight. Only Joshua McGuire plays one character, Hamlet; the rest of the cast play between two and five parts, and some also play instruments. The style of the costumes seem to be based upon the 1940's but all in dull brown. Robes and doublets are donned and doffed to this base.

Joshua McGuire bears a striking facial and vocal resemblance to the splendid actor Tom Hollander. He is young and enthusiastic but tends to shout into the sky a bit. He perhaps lacks the necessary depth. I found the casting of Ian Midlane as Horatio interesting. The character is usually portrayed as a young officer type, athletic; Hamlet's equal in all but royalty. This Horatio is very likeable but he reminded me of a faithful pet dog.

Dominic Dromgoole has taken the text from the 1st Folio and from the "bad" 1st Quarto versions of the play. The 1st Quarto is a short text which may have been used when the play toured in Shakespeare's day, but it has some large differences from the other texts. One difference is in the naming of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern who appear in the 1st Quarto as Rossencraft and Gilderstone. Dromgoole takes this as a cue for Simon Armstrong's Claudius to refer to the pair by more made-up names each time they appear.

Not a favourite interpretation of the play for me of the twenty or so I can remember having seen (some TV and movie), but worth seeing.

This production ran at the Globe from the Bard's (supposed) birthday on 23rd April to 14th May. It now tours the country and selected European venues ending at Elsinore Castle.


All's Well That Ends Well

Image of Globe stage for All's Well 2011

Award winning actress Janie Dee took the role of the Countess of Roussillon which was a treat for me. I also anticipated with pleasure the Parolles of James Garnon, who has appeared in several Globe productions. It is the first time this play has been seen at Shakespeare's Globe.

I had inadvertently booked the afternoon performance on Royal Wedding day! "So this is where all the republicans are" quipped an actor who was chatting with the groundlings before the start. I took the image above before all the playgoers arrived, but the audience was sparser than usual for a mainstream Globe production.

Once the play began though I remembered why I enjoy these Globe summers so much, drawn along by the spectacle, the music, the tragic moments and the comic, and the beautiful language. The week before I saw this production I saw Cardenio at the RSC Swan Theatre in Stratford and had a wonderful time, but when I hear the authentic Bard I just get an extra buzz. Don't think I'm claiming I could do a "blind tasting" and pick out the real thing, but the genuine article is so satisfying.

Ellie Piercy played Helena affectingly and Sam Crane was a shallow, callow handsome youth who didn't deserve Helena's love. Both very good. My expectations of Jamie Garnon's Parolles were not disappointed - a loud and boastful coward humiliated, but finally pitiable. Janie Dee was a concerned loving mother. My only acting quibble is with one character who seemed to think authority is gained by shouting, chin in the air, sick or well!

The joyous jig at the end confuses many newcomers but always sends the playgoers home with a happy face. My visit to the Swan suggests the RSC has realised it too.

Globe veteran John Dove directed this production which employed Jacobean costume, staging and music. The production ran from 27th April to 21st August.


As You Like It

A touring production returning to the Globe before continuing its itinerary.

It popped up briefly at the Globe in May, June and August.


Much Ado About Nothing

Another production with an exciting leading lady. Eve Best's Hedda Gabler in 2005 was probably the best I've seen, and she matched co-star Helen Mirren in Mourning Becomes Electra at the National Theatre in 2004. She also played Lady Macbeth here in 2002, though my review was lost. She has recently appeared as Dr. Eleanor O'Hara in the US TV series "Nurse Jackie".

I thought that this witty comedy with a dark side would suit her superbly, and I was right. What is more her Beatrice was superbly matched by the Benedick of Charles Edwards. He is very experienced, though I confess I don't know his work. The pair played to the audience outrageously, but that can be one of the major joys at this theatre, and it was here. I'm sure one group of schoolboys in the top balcony are now in love with Miss Best for life!

Gaynor and her brother Paul joined me for an afternoon performance at the Globe which delivered several contrasting weather phenomena in turn. Sun, cloudburst, more sun followed by cool breeze and then thunder. The groundlings had to scurry for waterproofs and a few minutes later grab temporary cardboard caps for shade from the dazzling sun. But that didn't spoil the atmosphere of the interplay of fun and tragedy that Shakespeare created. The playgoers followed each twist and turn of the plot attentively; a collective sigh rose around the galleries and yard when Benedick and Beatrice finally kissed.

The central pair though did make up for some failings elsewhere in Jeremy Herrin's production. A few secondary performances were weak, but the major problem for me, though not for others, was Paul Hunter's Dogberry. Shakespeare's character tries to sound important by dropping big words into his pronoucements fairly frequently, but unfortunately he mostly uses the wrong word or a totally meaningless word. In most productions it is difficult to make them sound funny, but if the character is made self-important enough it often works. Director or actor here have decided to signal each malapropism with a massive verbal tic reminiscent of Jack Douglas in the Carry On films. The audience don't notice the Bard joke because of the apparently random comic business dropping like a boulder in the middle of a sentence. It may have been funny on the first and second occasions, but it became tedious and annoying very quickly.

Since that joyful afternoon on the Southbank I've seen the West End production of Much Ado starring David Tennant and Catherine Tate billed as the team from Dr Who. I am a big Tennant fan and loved his Dr Who and the DVD of his Hamlet (He denied me the pleasure of seeing that production on stage by selfishly getting a back injury!) The stars were good, the rest of the cast strong throughout and I enjoyed it, but it had no heart. I didn't care about the outcome. It had nothing to do with the updating to 1980's Gibraltar - I must tell you about the RSC Merchant of Venice set in modern day Las Vegas: wonderful! The Globe Much Ado on the other hand was a joy not to be missed.

It ran from 21st May to October.


Doctor Faustus

"The greatest tragedy in English before Shakespeare" is the Globe's description of Marlowe's masterpiece. It was directed by Matthew Dunster and starred Paul Hilton (also in the above mentioned Mirren/Best NT production). Mephistopheles is played by Arthur Darvill who plays Rory in Dr Who.
The Globe weather this season has been 'interesting' and this was no exception - threatening skies, cloudbursts interspersed with bright sunshine. In a pre-production interview Arthur Darvill promised a production with giant puppets, effects and fire. Well that's what we got, but I want more than kid's entertainment from a Globe production. Very attractively designed dragons for Faustus and Mephistopheles to ride on, books that catch fire when opened and so on. Attractive music - I'd say North African in style perhaps. Good dancers dressed in black cleric's outfits carrying books which seem to be subject to some inexplicable magnetic force.  At the end we get a 'proper' curtain call and the the traditional jig, which eases the playgoers' uncertainty over when to applaud and when to clap along to the music. For some reason the two stars picked up lutes and played them indifferently in a 'Duelling Lutes' competition.
I can't complain about anything in this production - but nothing gave me joy or excitement either. That can be laid partly at Kit Marlowe's door, but I hoped for better here.

The production ran from 18th June.


Anne Boleyn

This play by Howard Brenton directed by John Dove was a sell-out at last year's Globe season and returned for a short run in August.


The Globe Mysteries

Not one of the mainstream productions, "The Globe Mysteries" gives a fresh and contemporary look at The Mystery Plays performed in medieval times until just before Shakespeare's era.

This version was written by Tony Harrison many years ago and I didn't see it then, despite reports of Brian Glover as God wearing a cardigan and being moved around in a builder's scoop. Apparently it has been updated to include characters photographing the crucifixion on their mobile phones and other modern references.
I was booked to see the production, but to my shame I chickened out of attending due to rioting on previous nights. If it had been a Shakespeare production I might have been braver!


The God of Soho

The final production of the season was a new play written by Chris Hannan. It was described as 'bracingly modern' and 'not for the faint-hearted'.




New Globe

New Globe Playhouse


The American actor Sam Wanamaker worked hard for decades to make the new Globe a reality, but he didn't live to see it built. Here's the story of how the new Shakespeare's Globe came to be built on London's Bankside in the 1990's

Mike's Views, Reviews and Previews


A list of links to details and my reviews of every season since 1997 at Shakespeare's Globe


Globe Main

Globe Old & New top page


Recommended Books

Well Furlong Book Shop


My list of recommended books about the Globe, the Rose and other playhouses of the time may be found in the Globe Playhouse section of the Well Furlong Book Shop . If you so wish, you may go on to buy many of the volumes in our Book Shop directly from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.


Shakespeare's Globe


The official Shakespeare's Globe site

Shakespeare's Globe [DVD]

Gaynor bought me this DVD for my birthday in 2005 and we both enjoyed it. As a regular playgoer to the Globe I found its behind the scenes sequences fascinating. Jamie Garnon shows us a day in his life as an actor at the Globe. He memorably played Mercutio in Romeo & Juliet in the 2004 season, and in 2011 plays Parolles in All's Well That Ends Well . The history of Shakespeare's Globe is told, and the directors of music and costume talk about their work.

For more information or to buy this DVD from amazon.co.uk click on the picture to the left.

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