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The Merchant Of Venice (globe)


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#1 Guest_Guest_Skylight_*_*

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Posted 07 September 2007 - 12:29 PM

Madame Tussauds - tick
London Dungeons - tick
Shakespeare's Globe - tick.

There's dumbing down and then there's The Merchant of Venice at the Globe; talk about disappointing.  Forget theatre, forget art, forget beautiful delievery that makes you appreciate the quality of the voice and the language, this is Shakespeare for the heritatge tour market and it stinks.  

I've been a supporter of the Globe for years (since the workshop season as it happens).  I thought it was a great concept.  I stuck by it when the first murmurings of 'tourist theatre' were rumbling.  And I've seen some really good shows over the years.  True it's always had an atmosphere of it's own (with 500 standers, the non English speaking contingent and patrons who wouldn't be seen dead in a more conventional space like the National further up the Bank that was somewhat inevitable) but when Rylance was the boss there was still an element of depth about the work that has now vanished.

Before anyone tells me that the Globe has no subsidy so has to sell tickets and the Shakespeare sells out - I know!  But look at the non Shakespeare... you can't give the tickets away.  Not because the non Shakespeare is rubbish but because the 'Globe audience' only wants to see Shakespeare in all its historical authenticity.  Before anyone tells me that Shakespeare was writing for the masses and this audience is more reflective of his audience than, for example, the audience at the National - yes, up to a point, I know!  But there was also bear baiting and cock fighting when Shakespeare's audience were going to the theatre - just because it's close to authenticity doesn't make it better.  They spoke Shakespeare's language; we don't.  We can't view the plays in the same way.  And before anyone says I must be a snob - I can name every person in this year's Big Brother quicker than I can name all the characters in The Merchant of Venice so try again!

Having said all that, much of the staging of the play is fine.  The set/props and the use of the space work well.  The voice work in terms of volume and clarity seems to be better than in previous seasons and the costumes are fine if you like that kind of thing; they neither enhance nor harm the performances.  The music is horrible, fifty percent the fault of the music itself and fifty percent the fault of the singer I'd say.  The casting is patchy (Portia, Shylock, Jessica and Lorenzo fine, the rest mixed).  

But however successful some of the individual elements are, there's no getting away from the fact that this show is directed towards the lowest common denominator.  And they seem to enjoy it.  I don't begrudge them the experience though I feel sad that what should be a great space is wasted in this way.  I've never been to Madame Tussauds or the London Dungeons and I don't intend to pay good money to go.  Now I must add Shakespeare's Globe to that list.

#2 Jan Brock

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Posted 07 September 2007 - 01:18 PM

Yes, but if it attracts a new audience to Shakespeare and to theatre in general then it must be A GOOD THING. If theatre doesn't attract a younger audience then it will die - DO YOU WANT THAT ? Look around the audience at NT - it is all middle-class and middle-aged English, look at the groundlings at the Globe it is far more diverse, so it must be succeeding brilliantly.

Etc. etc. etc.

Oh, wait a minute, that's not what I think, is it ? No, you are right, it is truly rubbish, isn't it. Sorry, my mistake.


#3 JWC

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Posted 07 September 2007 - 01:19 PM

QUOTE(Guest_Skylight_* @ Sep 7 2007, 01:29 PM) View Post
And before anyone says I must be a snob - I can name every person in this year's Big Brother quicker than I can name all the characters in The Merchant of Venice so try again!


You mean they were people rather than irritating stereotypes? Call me a cynic but could your ability to remember them be because Shakespeare's characters are so rarely splashed across the tabloids/Hello/Heat et al magazines?  Not accusing you of "reading" them but they're pretty hard to avoid when you're at a newstand and somehow they permeate the conciousness. Also Shakespeare's characters aren't easily reduced to inconsequential soundbites but I'm pretty sure they'll be part of the culture a long time after the BB contestants have faded into obscurity.


#4 Guest_Guest_Skylight_*_*

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Posted 07 September 2007 - 02:14 PM

QUOTE(JWC @ Sep 7 2007, 01:19 PM) View Post
You mean they were people rather than irritating stereotypes? Call me a cynic but could your ability to remember them be because Shakespeare's characters are so rarely splashed across the tabloids/Hello/Heat et al magazines?  Not accusing you of "reading" them but they're pretty hard to avoid when you're at a newstand and somehow they permeate the conciousness. Also Shakespeare's characters aren't easily reduced to inconsequential soundbites but I'm pretty sure they'll be part of the culture a long time after the BB contestants have faded into obscurity.

Haha no the example was to show that I aint no high art elitist.  wink.gif  I can do crap telly with the best of 'em.  I'd just rather not have crap telly standards splashed all over my lovely stage.

You're right about Shakespeare's characters though.  They've survived this long and they'll be around a while longer regardless of whether or not the BB audience wants to watch them.  The 'new audience' argument is a false one.  If the priority is filing the space with kids then why not pull down all the theatres and replace them with football pitches - hey presto kids in the space.  Equally you could no doubt get a different adult audience in by turning the place into a brothel - and no doubt some would say that's theatre of sorts.  But we've got enough 'low culture'/everyday activities out there already.  We didn't need to lose the Globe as well.

#5 Boob

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Posted 07 September 2007 - 02:25 PM

Jan Brock, I want to take you for dinner.  I love your posts.

#6 Guest_Guest_Skylight_*_*

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Posted 07 September 2007 - 02:40 PM

QUOTE(Boob @ Sep 7 2007, 02:25 PM) View Post
Jan Brock, I want to take you for dinner.  I love your posts.

Jan Brock sums up in one line what takes the rest of us twenty.  laugh.gif


#7 Lynette

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Posted 07 September 2007 - 05:19 PM

So The Globe has a different audience from the National - tourists and 'young' people, great. So it does Shakepeare 'large' why not? It is unsubsidised and the rate we're going it might end up the only Shakespeare we get.

But skylight guest person [ are you not skylight, if not, why not get your own name?] what was wrong with the show? You didn't like the music. Well, nor did I much - especially the sotto voce singing while people talked. Shylock was definitely underplayed as if poor John McKinery [spelling, sorry]  was afraid to give offence with those dodgey lines he has to deliver. But they made it funny, they told the story well, they looked nice. It wasn't that bad, just not very good.

I saw some shockers when Rylance was in charge much as I admire the man, so I don't see that this season has been any different. It is a hit and miss theatre, you takes your chance, you enjoy the whole atmosphere, the choccy raisins [ what happened to the nuts? ] the beautiful location. I don't suppose we'll get the likes of Simon Russell Beale there but oh, I'd love to see a top notch actor and a top director have a bash at stuff there. Any suggestions?

#8 armadillo

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Posted 07 September 2007 - 06:36 PM

Do the non-Shakespeares really sell badly? I tried to get tickets for the new play by Jack Shepherd (sorry - have forgotten the name but it's something worthy about Chartists or Luddites) on  August Bank Holiday Saturday (admittedly it was really sunny) and they were sold out except for a few top price returns so I went to the Open Air instead (still plenty of tickets and lots of people fainted in the heat so not that different from the Globe!).

#9 Guest_Guest_Skylight_*_*

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Posted 07 September 2007 - 11:20 PM

Hi Lynette,  yes I am the real Skylight.  I've just discovered that I can post without affecting the horror that is the post count hence the 'guest'!  What was wrong with the show... well it was the overall lack of depth that bothered me.  It was played as if the most important bits were dick gags, shag gags, drunken lout gags etc.  'All that glisters is not gold', 'the quality of mercy is not strained' etc were lost in soap opera style inflection and/or exaggerated gestures.  The fact that the audience laughed when Antonio said Shylock should become a Christian rather sums up just how misjudged the tone of the whole piece was.

I too would love to see a top flight actor and director have a go in the space.  Has Antony Sher played Prospero before?  I'm thinking Greg Doran directing... .  Douglas Hodge doing Titus Andronicus was a step in the right direction - but the play is too gross for me so I couldn't really appreciate it.  unsure.gif

The non Shakespeare's aren't anywhere near selling out at the moment, apart from the bank holiday apparently.  I guess the tourists must have settled for the non Shakespeare on that occasion.

#10 Lynette

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Posted 07 September 2007 - 11:52 PM

Yep, Antony Sher could certainly hack it at the Globe. Marvellous idea. And Prospero too. They could do lovely stuff with ships and rigging etc.


You have a point about the Merchant, maybe more than one. But the play is so hard to do these days. It was a bit creepy the Jew baiting on this occasion, especially with loads of tourists, like I feel I don't want them to think this is the kind of thing we really think. Daft but that's what it felt like. I didn't have this with Henry Goodman but then that was in the small Cottesloe and he had worked out every nuance of every syllable with the director and brought a dignity to Shylock that I don't think even Shakespeare was aware of or didn't develop anyway. Didn't they have some big German guy do Shylock there a while ago, I missed it.

I saw Holding Fire which was ok, a bit confusing and downbeat with a hanging at the end - not much chance of a jolly dance then..but it was half empty in the pit and plenty of seats around.

I don't know why they don't put on more of those bawdy and terribly funny Elizabethan and Jacobean second division plays which actually work a treat there. Lots of fun, daft plots, gross characters, and of course made for that stage. Serious modern stuff ain't great there even if set in the past.




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