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Shakespeare's Globe

2012 Season

The Play's The Thing

Image of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre 2012


Shakespeare's Globe started this summer with its 'Globe to Globe' season which presented all the Bard's plays plus 'Venus and Adonis'. Each was performed in a different language, and theatre companies came from all over the world. In June the season proper started with 'Henry V'. Jamie Parker led the cast. The second play on offer was 'The Taming of the Shrew'. Samantha Spiro played the fiery Katherina.

Later in the season Mark Rylance returned to the Globe with his 'Original practices' company for two productions. Rylance took the title role in 'Richard III' and reprised his memorable performance as Olivia in 'Twelfth Night'. Both had all male casts. It's great seeing this fine actor back at the Globe. Stephen Fry joining the "Twelfth Night" cast as Malvolio no doubt contributed to the speedy lack of any seats for this production. However the production moved to London's West End later in the year, and Gaynor and her brother Paul joined me for this treat.

The season's productions were:-


Globe to Globe

Before the season proper the 'Globe to Globe' season offered all Shakespeare's plays plus 'Venus and Adonis'. Each production is performed in a different language by performers from all over the world. The season started on 21st April with 'Venus and Adonis' staged by a company from South Africa. The final production was 'Henry V' in June performed in English and starting the Globe season proper.

Henry V

Henry V set Shakespeare's Globe 2012 In 2010 Jamie Parker was praised for his Prince Hal in 'Henry IV' Parts 1 and 2. This year he returns as Henry V again directed by Globe artistic director Dominic Dromgoole.

The last time this play was seen here it was the first production of the first proper season in 1997. We were all excited about this new experiment called Shakespeare's Globe and Mark Rylance was an exciting Hal. Now we know the Globe works, and I'm not the only one to return year after year in eager anticipation.

On Thursday 14th June I arrived in my regular seat on the front row of the lower Gallery rather later than I like (I caught the wrong bus, or rather the right bus going in the wrong direction!) The play hadn't started but on stage the musicians were singing beautiful French songs on period intruments. Why French songs? I don't know but there is more French spoken in this play than I'd remembered. At once I again felt at home here at the Globe - it is a unique experience.

Oh! What about the play? Well that was very good indeed, though I have some reservations. The Chorus was a serving wench played by Brid Brennan, who sets the scene effectively but I felt she was spreading rumour rather than rousing the playgoers' imaginations. The comedy was played on the broad side and as always that worked well at the Globe. The senior clergy plot their warmongering whilst taking turns on the privy - one way of making a wordy scene interesting, but... The comedy characters are suitably overdone, but as before here I often failed to hear what some of them said due to bad diction on top of a variety of regional accents. Brendan O'Hea though stood out as the swaggering Welshman Fluellen. Clear and funny.

The boy was played convincingly with great gusto by Olivia Ross. His killing on stage was shocking. But as Katherine the French princess the actress was beautiful and funny. How could the king fail to fall for her? Ah yes, the king. Jamie Parker was a modern unstagey king. His 'Once more unto the breach' speech was directed to the groundlings and by the end we all would have followed him! He was not eager to get into war, but once in he was ruthless. His order to kill all prisoners was given with determination but with regret. Yet he was an uncertain, self-effacing suitor for Katherine. Altogether a credible and likeable Henry worthy of respect.

As ever the play ended in a jig that sent us all home in a good mood, and looking forward to the rest of the Shakespeare's Globe season.

The Taming of the Shrew

The second play in the season proper was a new production directed by Toby Frow. Samantha Spiro, who bears a remarkable resemblance to "Carry On"/"East Enders" actress Barbara Windsor, plays the formidable Katherina. She is ideal as the strong, attractive, funny and finally loving so-called Shrew.

Unusually in my experience of the play this production included the "Christopher Fry" scene at the start. Sly starts by acting as a drunken groundling. Is he a real drunk who is about to be ejected by the Globe stewards, we wonder? Then he climbs on the stage, urinates against a column and is violently sick, partly over the front row of groundlings. I'm still not sure if the groundling who ran out of the yard shouting "This is not acceptable" was for real or was part of the show! The play was then performed for Sly's benefit which perhaps adds an extra level of make-believe suggesting that perhaps the outrageous 'Taming' we were about to witness is not to be taken seriously. Or perhaps not - I'm not a Shakespeare scholar, just a playgoer!

Ah yes the play! I wander yet again. This is a bawdy comedy and director Toby Frow plays the comedy to the fullest extent. The excellent Simon Paisley Day's Petruchio arrives for his wedding to Katherina wearing just boots, a sword supported by a strap over his shoulder, and a cod-piece held on with a thong. The sight of his all but naked back striding sedately off stage brought the house down!

Another unusual interpretation was the portrayal of Katherina's younger sister Bianca. Normally she is a shy, innocent character, and that is how she appears when in the company of her father and the outside world. But alone with her sister, Sarah Macrea's Bianca could give as good as she got and portrayed a much more knowing demeanour.

So what do you do about the final scene when each man orders his wife to come to him? Bianca's refusal justifies her two-faced portrayal earlier, but Katherina's wholly submissive deference to Petruchio can be played ironically. This production played it straight, Spiro wholeheartedly exhorting her fellow brides unquestioningly to submit to the authority of their husbands. The Sly induction may well suggest that this play within a play is indeed a make-believe world.

Altogether a wholly enjoyable production proving once again that Shakespeare wrote crowd pleasing hilarious romps when he wanted to.

Richard III

I was eagerly looking forward to this one! Mark Rylance's acting style teeters on the fence between greatness and going too far. Usually he keeps his balance and leaves memorable and moving memories. Lovable monster Crookback in his hands promised to be a treat, and it didn't disappoint.

Both this and 'Twelfth Night' were directed by Tim Carroll and designed by Jenny Tiramani with music by Claire van Kampen. These were Rylance's favourite team in his Globe years, and they returned to 'original practices' with an all male cast, and clothing, music and dance faithfully recreated in the manner of Shakespeare's era.

When we were allowed into the playhouse the missing panels of the frons scenae revealed some of the cast completing their make-up and adjusting their costumes. Then the wind band started up on the balcony above the stage and the panels were replaced. Before long the familiar figure of Mark Rylance appeared to tremendous applause and he started "Now is the winter of our discontent...". Crouched, with a false withered hand fixed to his chest, this Richard was quite a likeable rogue, almost apologetic for his betrayals. Not grotesque nor fearsome. All the more shocking then when he does start raging loudly declaring that new witchcraft has withered his hand.

Johnny Flynn played Lady Anne. Also known as Joe Flynn he leads the folk/rock band Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit (isn't Wikipedia wonderful?) Other crossdressers were Samuel Barnett whose singing was a joy in "The History Boys" at the National, and James Garnon a favourite of mine here at the Globe playing Parolles last year, and Mercutio in 'Romeo and Juliet' in 2004.

Twelfth Night

Mark Rylance first played Olivia in the 2002 production here. On the edge again, but still a joy. That too was an all male cast, and I feared that without a strong Viola the piece would fail. Michael Brown proved my fears to be groundless then but I was not so convinced by Johnny Flynn this year. The news that caused the most pleasurable anticipation was that Stephen Fry was joining the cast to play (who else?) Malvolio. Samuel Barnett played Sebastien. He appeared in Alan Bennett's 'The History Boys' with Jamie Parker (playing Henry V here this year). In 2011 they also starred together in Stoppard's 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead'. Liam Brennan reprised his Orsino of 2002 as did Peter Hamilton Dyer his Feste and Paul Chahidi his splendid Maria.



Original Globe

Original Globe Playhouse


In 1598 Shakespeare's acting company carried the timbers from the dismantled Theatre across the Thames to Bankside. There they used the timbers as the frame of their new playhouse they called the Globe. In 1613 it burnt down but they again rebuilt it. For more details click on the link.

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


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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.



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