Thursday, 14 May 2015

Jonathan Pryce as Shylock - Merchant of Venice - Shakepeare's Globe

I've always wanted to catch a performance at the Shakespeare's Globe, but hadn't got around to it for awhile. When Antony from London Meetups, said that he had tickets for Merchant of Venice, for the first time ever, I booked tickets THREE Whole MONTHS in advance.

Back in India, booking in advance means 24 hours before. With our crazy travel schedules, we rarely commit ourselves to anything more than a week away. This is one of the changes we are slowly adapting to, in London.

Anyway, Antony said that Olivier Award Winner Jonathan Pryce was playing Shylock in this performance. This is one of the Shakespearean plays we are familiar with - both of us have also acted in excerpts of this play during our school days. Since we had opted for the standing tickets in the Yard to get the authentic experience, tickets were a paltry 5-6 pounds each. For London, these prices are dirt cheap.

For most of you TV watchers, Jonathan Pryce may be more familiar as the "High Sparrow" in Game of Thrones or Cardinal Wolsey from "Wolf Hall". For the Bond Fans,  you would know him as the Media Baron villain  in "Tomorrow Never Dies" - Elliot Carver. And Johnny Depp fans would know him as Governor Weatherby Swann from the "Pirates of the Caribbean" series. Since I'm a fan of all of these, I HAD to go watch this Olivier Award Winning Actor (for Hamlet) perform live.

Shakespeare's Globe is a reconstruction of the Globe Theatre, an Elizabethan playhouse in the London Borough of Southwark, on the south bank of the River Thames that was originally built in 1599, destroyed by fire in 1613, rebuilt in 1614, and then demolished in 1644. The modern reconstruction is an academic approximation based on available evidence of the 1599 and 1614 buildings. It was built about 230 metres (750 ft) from the site of the original theatre and opened to the public in 1997, with a production of Henry V.

There are some balcony style seats in this circular theatre at multiple levels for those with more money. But Shakespearean theatre was meant for the masses and masses stand in the yard (open to the sky) right up close to the stage (maybe thats where the concept for screaming fans standing near the stage at award functions comes from). Standing and watching the play was quite an experience, I asked an usher if they had a facility to shut the rof if it rained or if performances were cancelled. With typical British style, she said 'The show goes on' and what about those standing in the yard "well, they get wet"

So there you have it! Book your tickets weeks, nay, months in advance and if it rains - you just get wet - while watching an amazing show.

The Performers were phenomenal. Launcelot (the Jester for the purpose of this play) grabbed a couple of audience members to get on stage with him and play the 2 sides of his conscience (like a comic performance and pretty unusual for Shakespearean performances as far as I've heard) Also the female roles were played by actresses (most Shakespearean theater had female roles played by male impersonators)

The play was slightly rewritten to make the dialogue more contemporary and easier to follow, but the original language was retained for some of the more poetic sections. However, the way it was portrayed, I came away much more sympathetic to Shylock and felt that he had been unjustly treated throughout (he seems logical and just throughout his dealings with his own code of honour - except when he insisted on his pound of flesh). Was Shakespeare trying to prove the superiority of Christianity over Judaism? (I'm not a Literature scholar, so I'm not sure about this)

The singers were amazing, their voices in the background went perfectly with the developments on stage.

However, standing for 3 hours is not the best way to enjoy a performance of this magnitude. We will return, but next time, I'm buying tickets for the seats.

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