Sunday, 25 September 2011

Insubstantial pageant?

Well, I don't know about that.  The last time I wrote about the replica theatre called 'Shakespeare's Globe' (just in case of confusion with anyone else's), it was about getting there, rather than about the rather flaky performance of 'The Danish Play', which frankly is too packed with quotations for its own good.

So this time, it's  going to be about the actual play.  'Doctor Faustus', by his so-called rival Christopher Marlowe.  I was dreading it.  I kind of assumed, (not knowing anything much about Marlowe other than that he was murdered on some river steps in Deptford, possibly by the KGB, this gleaned from a half-remembered Anthony Burgess novel), that it was going to be a bit of a slog.  The legend of Faust - sell your soul and body to the devil for twenty-five years and then take the hit - well, it isn't exactly a Dan Brown plotline, is it? 

As usual, I'd failed to take into account that plays only really work when they are staged and acted.  Why didn't they teach us that at school?  We spent countless hours force-reading this stuff on the page, failing to make any sense of it at all.  I now know that that wasn't my fault - the teachers didn't really understand their material.  If I was writing my ideal EngLit curriculum (ha ha, as if), I'd start with 'Don't let a child read a play until s/he has seen it performed', and take it from there.

Anyway, on the stage, it was a romp.  High comedy, both verbal and slapstick, scary beasts and spirits and politicians and priests (the Pope was definitely modelled on Peter Cook's cameo in 'The Princess Bride'), and even the tragic ending (can you guess what happens?) was just precisely overacted.

Can't wait for the next one.


  1. Going to the Theatre in London seems an awful lot of trouble when you can watch The Princess Bride on telly.

  2. Wasn't that the other one, Philip, with the KGB etc?
    I agree about not reading plays in skool. However the film can help. I did Julius Caesar (read, not acted) for O level & they showed us the Brando version, after the reading bit to "bring it all together". Still remember the occasion - it left a big impression. But it would have been better to see it first.
    Anyway glad you enjoyed Doc F after all.

  3. I've not been to the Globe for a few years. I love the atmosphere, but I can't say I've ever seen an overall-brilliant play there, although there have been some excellent individual performances. Most dreadful was Vanessa Redgrave's Prospero, where she was so keen not to dominate the play as The Great Actress that she forgot she was actually the leading role and so underplayed it, undramatically and inaudibly, that she might as well not have been there.

    Er, this isn't my post, is it. Sorry. Glad you had a good time, I must give the Globe another visit next year.

  4. Belated response, Z, to your apology for rambling on or hijacking my comment box. As far as I'm concerned, the only constraint is how much space Google allows you. I can burble for Berkshire.