Friday morning we awoke to a dreary London morning. There were ominous clouds overhead, and before we had eaten our Cheerios (which have taken on an entirely new context, being in the land where they can actually say that seriously), rain was falling hard and heavy from the sky. Not like regular English spritzing; this, my friends, was rain. Weather be damned, the players at the new Globe theatre perform in rain or shine, and with that attitude we were off to see one of Shakespeare’s greatest comedies to be performed by one of the greatest troupes of actors in the world: Much Ado About Nothing.
If you know me, you know I love me some Shakespeare (if you have any doubt, evidence can be found here). Tragedy, comedy or history, I treasure them all, and it just so happens that Much Ado is not only one of my favorites, it is also one of the Shakespeare shows I got to perform in during high school. My role was minor, an adapted version of Antonio, Leonato’s brother. I was Antonia, the sister of Leonato and aunt to the slandered Hero. It wasn’t Beatrice, but as they say, there are no small parts, only small actors. Anyway, suffice to say that this play holds special significance to my heart.
Today Apollo shone down on us, because the weather cleared and we watched the best production of a Shakespeare play I’ve ever seen staged before us. The direction and acting were perfect; in the true spirit of the theatre’s space, they used it to their utmost. I have never seen such rapport between actors and audience. I always felt like I was in on some inside joke whenever Beatrice and Benedick sparred—they kept their audience in their gaze so often that it was like we were apart of the conversation, too. I have seen and read that play many times, and they found things in the text that I had never thought to be funny, and there were so many moments of pure comedy based on innovative direction. We had splurged on good seats, and I was glad.
Perhaps the highlight of the show was during the climax of the dramatic action (actually, a monologue I had done back in high school) where Beatrice is upset after Hero’s betrayal and is trying to convince Benedick to challenge Claudio. Beatrice’s outer skirt had come unhitched somehow in the fray of the wedding scene, and as she ramped up to this outburst of emotion, there were whisperings among the crowd. Eventually she looked down and noticed that her skirt was nearly a quarter way down her! A moment like this for an actor is pivotal—after all, the show must go on—and she chose a route that I would never have expected at the Globe: the saw her skirt and burst out laughing. The entire audience roared with her, Benedick helped her fix it, and as the guffaws died down, she asked, “Where was I?” After getting her place, she resumed her monologue and then a few seconds later burst into laughter again. Benedick, staying in the spirit of things (after all, we were all friends after the leading lady lost her skirt), starts to pretend to undo his trousers. It was probably a full minute before they were back on track. In some situations, that would have bombed; they’re professionals, performing at a well-reputed venue, shouldn’t they have some composure when that sort of accident occurs? Sure. But! I really think that it was more what Shakespeare would have done, or, at least, approved of. It got more laughs, and didn’t really ruin any part of the emotion of the scene.
I will never forget my playgoing experience to the Globe. Yes, I know it’s not really the one where Shakespeare performed at, but whatever. It rocked.