For the past two and half months, I’ve been globe trotting – some of the major stops being LA, San Fran, New York, London, Paris, Rome and Barcelona (to name a few!) It was the trip of a lifetime, and something I’ve wanted to do ever since my first overseas adventure with my family at the age of fourteen.
It was a little different this time around. Much more freedom, a lot more decision making and a considerably larger amount of food and drink being consumed daily (we lived on rations of fruit and yoghurt for 6 weeks when my Dad was in charge…)
Ah yes, globe trotting. An opportunity to see new things and to immerse yourself in another culture. I wrote a journal entry for each day that I was away, and looking over it now, one thing is for sure, it certainly is a fascinating old world.
I had decided once and for all that people-watching was probably the cheapest and most engaging forms of theatre. Within the pages of my journal are snippets of conversations overheard on trains, descriptions of characters observed in city squares, and countless ideas to inspire new work. There is so much world to see, and for someone like me, the people-watching opportunities are a never-ending parade of character profiles. Each memory has either been recorded or filed away in my mind for future reference.
Then, whilst in London, I swung by Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on the southern banks of the Thames. Without booking ahead, my travel buddy and I were only able to secure standing room tickets for ‘the yard’. For those who haven’t been before, can I suggest that if you have two legs in decent working order and a keen sense of adventure, you too go ahead and book yard tickets. At £5 a ticket, it’s only slightly more expensive than people-watching on the street, but it’s also an unforgettable up-close and engaging theatrical experience.
The night I was there, we saw Toby Frow’s The Taming of the Shrew and were on the edge of our ‘seats’ for the entire 3 hours! There is something to be said for seeing Shakespeare performed by classically trained actors in a replica of the theatre that was used in Shakespeare’s time. Night after night, the audiences come out in droves to see productions performed more or less in the round, with tiered seating curving right around either side of the large, columned stage.
Growing up, there was a certain reverence that seemed to accompany the performance or study of Shakespeare in English and Drama class. The text, though in English, was somewhat foreign and very old-school (mind you, anything older than 50 years already seemed pretty ancient to us). Being told that Shakespeare’s works were written for the masses: the educated and uneducated, the rich and the rotten, seemed ludicrous. But understanding the text and discovering for yourself that it was not only incredibly well written, full of imagery and poetry, but also guts, gore and crude jokes, was thrilling.
Since those early school days I’ve seen many productions of Shakespeare, but that first Globe experience would have to take the cake. I’ll never forget how us groundlings stood in the yard, huddled together under a threatening London sky, beers in hand, cheering and jeering. It was raw, clever, engaging, a little raunchy and a lot hilarious.
My mind was racing and my heart was bursting as I left the theatre that night – a combination, I think, of awe for a brilliant tradition, a powerful tool and an incredible craft as well as a sense of urgency to take part in it all. Throughout the performance I cast my eyes across the sea of faces, young and old, who made up this particular audience. Seeing their wide eyes and open mouths, I couldn’t help thinking that without them, we wouldn’t have theatre. It was made to be shared experience, and each person – treading the boards or giving applause – plays a valuable part.
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players…
– William Shakespeare