Today I trundled off to the Globe to join the Weasels in our usual Gentleman’s Box, this time to see Shakespeare’s comedy, All’s Well That Ends Well. Not that the day started so well.
My plan was to catch a train into town, pop over to the flat to drop off a change of clothes and then hightail it across to Bankside to meet the Weasels at the Anchor Inn, as usual, ready for the opening. South West Trains thought this plan was very silly and, in keeping with their practices of not particularly catering for their passengers, they changed the Sunday timetable, eliminating half the trains.
I’m sure they did this a while ago as the timetable poster quite clearly has one train an hour into London rather than the two an hour of old. Subsequently I had the pleasure of sitting on Farnham station for half an hour, wondering how fine I would be cutting it at the other end. It’s not like I could change the plan – I had a bag of clothes and my netbook, neither of which I really wanted to cart around the pubs of London.
For once, the Jubilee Line was working on a Sunday and I managed to get to the flat at 12, texting the Weasels that I would be late and would meet them at the Globe. Lorna responded by sending me a picture of my beer which they were forced to share out and drink between them.
Time was ticking frantically away – it always ticks faster when you haven’t much left – so I opted for a taxi. The rather pessimistic driver informed me that it would take about an hour to get to the Globe because of roadworks and diversions and general mayhem in the City. He reckoned the best option was to drop me at Southwark Bridge and I could walk across.
He wasn’t wrong about the traffic. It was horrendous. Southwark Bridge had become the favoured route across the river for everyone and appeared to be one long, single lane of parked vehicles. I walked across while they sat and waited. I sent my silent thanks to the god of taxi drivers.
I arrived at the Globe with minutes to spare, meeting the Weasels as they approached. They reiterated the fact that they had to drink my beer, which was very considerate of them. We took our place in the Gentleman’s Box and settled in for the performance.
We were nine Weasels – we should have been ten but Dawn decided to go to the Orkneys instead. John, Rob (who had been steadily drinking for 24 hours with a brief nap break in a corn field), Bev, Darren, Lorna, Lindy, Tottie (John’s niece, Lindy’s daughter who is an actor and who took Dawn’s ticket), Tom and me. Matt was also supposed to be there but for reasons not disclosed to me, didn’t turn up. I can’t say I was disappointed.
Our box, unlike other times, had no table. We were tempted to steal the one in the box next to us but it was being used by the technical guys responsible for the subtitles so didn’t think we’d get away with it like we have in previous years. Given we were one short, it was easy to utilise the high stools for a food delivery surface.
I’m not a big fan of Shakespeare (as most people are well aware) and this play goes a long way to explaining why. I really have no idea why the characters did what they did. I could look up the plot but I think it preferable that I should try and explain it from where I sat and watched.
Tottie said it was one of the ‘problem plays’ which means people have no idea whether it’s a comedy or a tragedy. I think Shakespeare was asked to write it in a hurry – maybe for a quick couple of quid or as per contract – and didn’t bother with the sense of the plot. Anyway, here is Gary’s version of All’s Well…
Some important guy (a count, maybe) is dead and his son (I didn’t catch his name so I’ll call him Boy) is off to the French court. In the house is a girl (Helen – though John seems to think it was Helena) who has grown up with Boy although she is not related to him. Maybe she was an orphan or they found her by the road…I couldn’t work that out. And, of course, she is in love with him and is rather dismayed that he’s off to Paris.
Then we meet the best character in the play. A rather dashing, foppish chap who I shall call Eddie (because he looked and sounded like Eddie Izzard and I didn’t catch his name either) is seen flirting outrageously with Helen, discussing the pointlessness of virginity. For me this was the funniest scene of the whole play and Eddie was superb. Actually he was excellent throughout the play.
So Boy and Eddie leave for Paris and Helen is all upset and distraught. She then has an idea. Someone has given her a miracle drug for some reason and she intends to cure the King of France in order to gain a request from him – Boy’s hand in marriage.
This all goes according to plan except Boy isn’t enthused. The King however, insists and they are married. Boy, however, refuses to consummate the marriage and, instead, goes off to Florence to fight in the war. Helen hatches a plan to follow him and ends up in, I think, a nunnery. She leaves a note behind intimating that she is dead.
She somehow manages to get Boy to bed one of the nuns during which there’s a lot of ring swapping between them. However, the nun tells Boy she will not speak during the act and it must be dark. This all goes according to plan and, I think, Boy was going to marry the nun.
Back in Paris everything comes out and the King discovers the ring that Boy has is the one he gave to Helen (I don’t remember this happening but clearly it did). Helen appears and says she isn’t dead and that Boy didn’t sleep with the nun but with her and she’s now pregnant with Boy’s child. Boy breaks down and they live happily ever after. I guess.
Somewhere in the middle of this, Eddie is kidnapped and tricked into thinking he’s been captured by the enemy and confesses lots of things about his master (Boy) and various other chaps – this was a wonderful scene played superbly. I’m pretty sure Shakespeare meant us to despise this fop but the actor was so good and so likeable that I actually liked him far more than the rest of them.
Because of his confessions he is left a sad, scruffy chap, stripped of his garish clothes. I’m not sure what else happens to him.
So, all in all, a bit confusing and, if you ask me, pointless. If you want to know the real storyline, I’ve found this link which may make things clearer.
After the performance, which we all agreed was quite enjoyable – some more enjoyable than others and at least it was better than last year’s Macbeth – we wandered across Blackfriars to the usual pub for a few pints before making the long trek across the City to the Bavarian Beer House at Tower Hill.
Tom found out about this place while searching for Bavarian beer and, it was thought, we could relive the delights of Munich therein. Which we happily did. Big jugs of beer and white sausage. Fantastic!
After a few gallons of Bavaria’s best brew, we staggered across to the Anchor for a final pint before I bid them all farewell at London Bridge station. I was rather drunk but was back in the flat half an hour later and asleep about 10 minutes after that. What an excellent idea that was.
If you’d like to see John’s photos of the day, you can’t. They used to be here but not anymore. I should give credits for the mincing and sausage shots, which were Lorna’s.