This fall, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to study abroad in London, a city with quite a lot to offer that I can’t possibly see entirely in 3 months. And while most everything really is spectacular, what has stuck with me the most is my experience at The Globe, a subject that I have avidly blogged about with each visit…
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
It’s really hard not to be able to see in the Globe. In my mind, I had envisioned such a vast space between myself and the back standing room that I wouldn’t even enjoy the show. To the contrary, it’s very, very close- even if you’re in the back. As people moved and went outside for a break, I moved my way forward. By the end of intermission, I was at the stage, finally! I was standing for 2+ hours, yes, but I was right there. I could fold my arms on the stage and lay my head down and still see everything. The actors came and stood right next to us at several points and it was amazing to see how well they stayed in character knowing that we were literally inches away and watching their every move…
The show itself was wonderful. Although I still think I prefer the West End version of MUCH ADO, this really was incredibly fun to watch. The humor was well-played and had the audience laughing and playing along, while hissing at Don John at the appropriate points when he was scheming. The audience made the entire experience really amazing and inclusive….
I think I can officially say that I am in love with this show. It was definitely something to see the modernized West End version and then to see the Globe production. They had similarities and they had differences. But overall, each was fantastic in it’s own right. And the Globe itself made the entire experience somewhat magical.
DOCTOR FAUSTUS at the Globe was beyond amazing. Not having read the play by Christopher Marlowe, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I knew that it was a dark show. The main plot is that Doctor Faustus (Paul Hilton), feeling the lure to do magic to get what he desires, sells his soul to the devil in return for 24 years of unquestioned service from Lucifer’s servant, Mephistopheles (Arthur Darvill).
Both leads were amazing. Faustus is obviously conflicted between his own personal devil and angel. And although he chooses the devil, you still feel for him when his 24 years are finally up. Mephistopheles was fantastic as well. You know that he’s evil, having thrown his lot in with Lucifer, but you still get the feeling that he realizes what he’s done to himself and at least, on some deeper level, regrets his decision to live a life of damnation. There’s an amazing scene between the two when Faustus tells Mephistopheles that hell can’t possibly be that bad:
“FAUSTUS. Tell me, where is the place that men call hell?
MEPHIST. Under the heavens…
Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscrib’d
In one self-place; but where we are is hell,
And where hell is, there must we ever be…
FAUSTUS. I think hell’s a fable.
MEPHIST. Ay, think so still, till experience change thy mind…I am an instance to prove the contrary,
For I tell thee I am damn’d and now in hell.
FAUSTUS. Nay, an this be hell, I’ll willingly be damn’d:
What! sleeping, eating, walking, and disputing!”
The difference between carefree Faustus and Arthur’s stoic and damned Mephistopheles was really impressive and their acting played off of each other’s really well. Further, the other actors were amazing, leaping all over the stage, getting in the audience’s faces, chanting and being overall terrifying spawns of Satan. And the comic relief was hilarious. Although I think some of us in the groundling section nearly got more than we bargained for during a comedic stripping scene….by an old man.
Also, I was impressed with the actors’ ability to improvise. At one point, Faustus and Mephistopheles are showing off their magic by summoning a floating castle. It was, in reality, a castle-shaped balloon. Apparently, on good days, when they conjure and release the balloon, it floats up and out of the Globe. The day I went, however, it floated back down to the groundlings who handed it forward to Darvill on stage. He pretended to bring it back to himself using his powers (gesturing “come here” with his fingers) and then made floating motions with it weaving up and down as he moved across the stage to the back and violently threw it backstage in an unscripted moment of comic relief. They smoothed it out well with an ad-lib of “you haven’t seen enough of this yet!” It was a great save and had I not talked to people who had seen the show on other nights, I could have just accepted the moment as part of the comedy.
And one other thing – the special effects were fantastic for a live stage production. Mephistopheles’ frequently produced fire from his hands and books – making him truly seem the servant of Lucifer. The trap doors were used really creatively, allowing them to throw people into Hell as well as letting the 7 deadly sins out of the fires to heckle Faustus. Mephistopheles seemingly appeared on random parts of the stage completely unknowingly to anyone, scaring the audience in the front half of the theatre who couldn’t see the back doors and his completely silent entrances. And at the end, smoke billowed around the devils that came to claim Faustus, overtaking the audience in a really eerie fog as they chanted and sang, dragging him to Hell.
Although I only got to see two shows at the Globe before it closed for the season, I can honestly say that it is my favorite place in London. And despite the fact that I’m being sent home at the end of the semester, I have every intention of returning to the city in the years to come, even if just to see The Globe once more. The history of it as well as the care with which shows are staged there create an amazing atmosphere that can only stem from a collective love and respect for the theatre.