Thought is free – The Tempest

The title of this blog is a Shakespeare quote from the Tempest. My friend and I attended a matinee performance of the Tempest at the Globe theatre last week. To see a Shakespeare play at the globe has long been a wish of mine so I was delighted to finally get the chance.

So The Tempest, what did we think? Well before we went I thought I’d read the play as it’s not one I’d looked at before. I thought it would give me a better understanding if I was familiar with the text before I went. When I read the play I was a bit unsure whether I really fancied going after all. To be honest it came across a bit on the dull side. Clearly this was my reading of it that was at fault as I will explain.

When we watched the actual performance I was pleased and very relieved. What had looked like flat boring conversation on the page really came alive on stage. A line that that you could read and think nothing of on the page was delivered on stage in such a way that you suddenly realise ‘oh it was a joke!’ Ok maybe that makes me sound a bit dim but it wasn’t the words alone that made the joke it was the way in which the line was spoken. I guess that just goes to show how much our communication through speech is reliant on gesture and inflection.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons that misunderstandings are widespread in our digital communication age. I am a big fan of books and a devotee of the written word, but this goes to show it’s limitations and how skilled a writer needs to be to overcome this barrier and create meaning.

As I’m sure anyone who has studied Shakespeare at school has been told, Shakespeare isn’t meant to be read as a book it’s meant to be performed and watched, it’s drama not literature. Whether your a Shakespeare conspiracy theorist or not you have to admire the skill of the writer (whoever they may be. ;)) Of course the director must play a significant part in translating the words into a performance, in finding the joke. Note there’s very little in the way of written directions in Shakespeare plays and hundreds of years later I imagine directing them can’t always be an easy task. So do bear in mind if you’ve studied or read Shakespeare and thought it a bit on the dull side, it isn’t until you’ve seen it performed that you can really judge what you’ve read on the page.

We picked this play partly because Colin Morgan is in it, as we were both Merlin and curious to see Colin in something so different. He’s an incredible young actor with a bright future ahead of him. Well he seems to have shaken off Merlin and taken up the part of a monkey! Yes as the spirit, Ariel, he was jumping about all over the place and swinging around the set. Oh and those bird feet he had to walk in at one point looked very uncomfortable. There is a very impressive scene involving the spirits and a massive pair of wings which is worth watching!

The show is captioned but due to the layout of the globe you will struggle in some places to get a clear view of the screen. We found that we missed some of the dialogue when the actors were facing away from us, not much though as they all project well (they are professionals!) The storm scene on the ship at the beginning though I could barely hear a word over the sound effects, but hey it’s a storm what do you expect? but the dialogue there isn’t hugely important and you can hear enough to get the idea. I was interested to see how they would do the storm scene and I have to say it was very well done. The actors were throwing themselves about the stage and really going for it. Excellent performances all round and a very amusing moment with the jester codpiece came after.

Of course I should also mention the amazing guest cameo made by…….a pigeon! Yes there was a pigeon there who every now and then decided to swoop across the stage from one side of the roof to the other, dropping the odd feather over the audience. It all adds to the fun of an open air theatre!

One interesting note to add. We attended the Q & A after the show in which were informed that it was 400 years ago to the day (June 29th 1613 / 2013) that the original Globe theatre had burnt down. Apparently all the actors went outside in the morning with a glass of water, which they threw on the ground and asked the gods not to burn the theatre down again. Which I though was a lovely little story.


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