At first I thought King John was going to be about our very own Old Vole. I was soon put right.
Now I’m not convinced that King John was a suitable king to write a play about. He was no hero (like Henry V, for instance), he had no ghosts (like Hamlet and Macbeth), there was no gender switching (like so many Shakespeare plays) and he didn’t seem to have anything to do with the Jews. Most of all, I suppose, is that he wasn’t a very good king.
Okay, he had to follow his enigmatic and much lauded brother, Richard the Lionheart and he was always going to be in the shadow of his amazing mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine so, it’s fair to say he wasn’t off to a promising start. So why on earth did Shakespeare bother writing a play about him? And why was it such a popular play in Victorian times? Darren is convinced he was having a bad day when he wrote it.
Actually, the most memorable part of the performance I saw today at the Globe, was the band. They played some amazing instruments which made an incredible variety of unearthly and discordant sounds (perfectly matched by the sometimes weird singing). It would be fair to say that the band took up a third of the stage space – is this why there was no dance at the end? My thinking is that the band was there to give the performance something memorable…which clearly worked. In my case, anyway.
The effect that the band (and attendant monks) had was to give the play an air of performance art, something I rather like. The sounds did set the mood…it’s just that the play didn’t respond in kind.
I’m not saying the acting was bad or the direction or the costumes. No, all of these were up to the usual Globe standard. It was the content that left me mystified.
The programme (always a treat) claims that the play contains one of the most shocking scenes in Shakespeare, the attempted blinding of Arthur by Hubert. I reckon being fed your own children (Titus Andronicus) was much more shocking or the excessive blood in Coriolanus. Or a man being turned into a donkey! The fact that Hubert doesn’t blind Arthur is probably more shocking, given how irritating Arthur was. When he suggests that Hubert cuts out his tongue instead, I have to say I thought this would have been greeted with enthusiasm from most of the audience.
My other major problem with the play (and not as an Atheist) was the appearance of the Papal Legate, Gandolf…oops, I mean Pandulph. The wedding cake he wore on his head was bad enough but how can an audience possibly take him seriously when he’s played by an actor who, for years, played Geoffrey in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air? I’m not saying his breadth of acting is severely limited but he wasn’t very convincing as someone who was excommunicating a king (then unexcommunicating him…or should that be ‘communicating’?). I’d tell him to keep doing comedy. He has the face and manner for it.
Still, all in all, it wasn’t as bad as the now legendary Globe production of Macbeth years ago, something all the Weasels were agreed on. Because, of course, that’s who I was with, this time in the (second best) Gentleman’s Box A. Though, to be fair, there was a table for our picnic and wine. This has not always been the case in Box A.
Before meeting them, I decided to pop into Nero’s for a much needed coffee. It was quite brisk in the winds coming off the Thames so I was also in need of a fleece so I bought one from a handy souvenir shop before getting the coffee. I was dressed in shorts and t-shirt (given the warm weather we’ve been having) but was a bit too optimistic.
After the play, we went to the Rake following a plea from Bex. Little did she realise that this meant a much longer walk to the George afterwards because it is in the opposite direction. Still, it’s a nice bit of exercise between beers.
After the George we were going to try the Ship and Shovel rather than the usual Coal Hole but, sadly, it was closed and so we plonked ourselves outside at the Sherlock Holmes instead, for a final round of beer. Actually, there seemed to be more coke than beer ordered and consumed. John was not happy about this.
And that’s the Globe outings for 2015. Sad, but true.