I received an email from the Globe Theatre. In addition to their programme of Shakespeare’s plays, they are putting on a production of UNDER THE BLACK FLAG -The Early Life, Adventures and Pyracies of the Famous Long John Silver Before He Lost His Leg. For a limited season this summer. We are promised, in capital letters, that THIS PRODUCTION FEATURES BARE FLESH AND FILTHY LANGUAGE.
You should come here and watch me cooking dinner in this hot weather if you want BARE FLESH AND FILTHY LANGUAGE, for no charge at all, except a snappy request to unpack the dishwasher.
Having said this, I feel quite mellow this evening. If you are in the right sort of mood, a gentle trickle of sweat down your backbone and your, er, frontbone (with no risqué undertone, if you please) can feel quite interesting.
But back to the Globe. I don’t know if a reproduction of a Shakespearian theatre is wonderful or simply kitsch, but I like it. I used to go every year, but I’ve skipped a couple of years. Partly because of family weddings in Augusts and partly because they will do ‘themes’ (historical plays, for example) and if you don’t care for the subjects, you are not so likely to go.
This year they are doing Coriolanus. Not one of my favourites, though I haven’t seen it for years and years – but it doesn’t seem a play for a summer evening. And Titus Andronicus. Um, no. I haven’t seen it, but it just could replace Measure for Measure as my most unloved Shakespeare play. And Antony and Cleopatra. Well, watchable enough, but I have seen it several times and it is very long… They are hastily bringing in the Comedy of Errors too, I see from the website. That could hit the mindless entertainment spot.
It is the place and its atmosphere that sells it to me though. I have seen some distinctly indifferent performances there, the most disappointing of which was Vanessa Redgrave as Prospero in The Tempest. Miranda was good, Caliban was absolutely wonderful and the supporting cast was fine. But she was dreadful. She underplayed it to the extent that you could not tell what she was saying – she evidently didn’t want to Declaim the Famous Speeches, but surely you should act? and be heard? and she really was being carried by the rest of the cast. I saw her years ago, in the late 60s, in London – I think it was in Camelot, but someone may correct me. I do remember that Laurence Harvey played King Arthur (unless I’m wrong again and he played Sir Lancelot) and my mother complained that he had bandy legs, or possibly knock knees* and was not best suited to tights.
*It’s been pointed out that he could hardly, as I first said, have both.