A few weeks ago, Julien and I woke up to another beautiful Spring day in the capital, and again, thought “it’s time to get out and about”, instead of spending another Sunday indoors.
We caught a bus to London Bridge, and strolled alongside the River Thames, heading Westwards along the Southbank. We soon noticed a long queue of people, starting from Shakespeare’s The Globe Theatre, and stretching back all the way past The Tate Modern. Being inquisitive and suffering from serious FOMO, we decided to join the end of the queue – surely there must be something happening here, regardless of the fact that the majority of the line was made up of young children.
Thankfully, the line moved along quickly, and it slowly dawned on us that of course – it was The Bard’s 450th Birthday and we were in a queue to celebrate the big man himself, inside of The Globe. I won’t focus too much on the antics that went on inside the open day. Although I will say it was great fun, however certainly directed towards the children.
Saying this though, it sure isn’t a negative, as the whole day really got the kids involved and familiar with Shakespeare, and it can’t be a bad thing to get the modern child to step away from the iPad and into the world of Hamlet once in a while.
So after experiencing my first walk around the theatre, and feeling a somewhat unsettling nostalgia for memories of my English A – Level (where I watched plenty of videos of Kenneth Branagh leaping around in tights and subsequently fell in love), I felt it was time I embraced my culture a little, and purchased tickets to a play.
Now, without the risk of sounding a bit thick, I did have visions of watching something I’d heard of; such as Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth or even Henry V. However when you’re on a budget, and only willing to fork out 450p (to celebrate Will’s 450th birthday, obviously), you take what you can get. So when Julien came off the phone, telling me he had two tickets to Titus Andronicus at The Globe, I could barely stifle the noise I made, that would loosely translate to “What the hell is that?!”.
Now I never professed to being a Shakespeare lover. Again; not to my knowledge did neither Kenneth nor Leo don the part of Titus to entertain my eyes, whilst I pretended I was being entertained by the storyline. No no, that was Hamlet and Romeo whom I fell in love with. So why would I ever have heard of this Titus Andronicus?
However, for once in my life, being on a tight budget and having my head in the literary sand paid me a service, as I can honestly say I had the most unexpected amount of fun I’d had in a long time.
In the days running up to the performance, I kept seeing the play appearing in all the press I laid my eyes on. Rave reviews, for this particular production (by Brit Lucy Bailey) about how she had made it so real and believable, that members of the audience were fainting and vomiting at all the gore featured. Needless to say, my dark side was very excited to see what all the fuss was about.
So on the day of the production, like the true gent that he is (definitely not because of the close proximity of the pub to Globe, or the very reasonable pre-fixed theatre menu for that matter) Julien took me for a lovely dinner at The Swan. From here we filtered out into the surrounding grounds of the theatre, where we bought some not so reasonably priced drinks, yet thankfully ordered some more for the interval. We’d read the running time was three hours – now that is a long time to be standing, especially WHILST trying to decipher the Shakespearian tongue, so the Merlot certainly didn’t go amiss.
We entered the standing area of The Globe, and decided on a place to stand. There was a certain air of 1600’s around, with the music playing lowly and mysteriously in the background, with some sort of incense burning dully, and smoke dancing upwards in swirls towards the sky. We were pre-warned by the theatre that they had well trained medically able attendants on duty, which is always going to add to the promise of the gore that we were yet to see.
With that, the thick wooden doors were closed with a thud, and the music softened to a stop as the show began. Fortunately, my fears of standing still for three hours were quickly banished, as seemingly every two minutes the audience had to quickly move out of the way of the actors rampaging through the crowds, causing big ruckuses and shouting loudly, all of which added to the sense of reality and involvement.
Now I don’t want to go through each part of the play in an attempt to critique its every flailing and success, far be it from me to be qualified to do so anyway; this is more a loose “was it worth it?” guide to other young everyday people like myself. And I really have to say, aside from the aching feet, it really was worth it.
As for the “did it disappoint?” factor, with regards to the gore and blood, it really was fantastic. However I do feel sorry for one of the three audience members who couldn’t quite stomach it and did faint, as he managed to slump forwards onto the concrete floor, having no one to break his fall, resulting in him breaking his nose. There was almost more blood over his face than in the production, but hey – at least he brought the genuine vital fluid to the performance, therefore aiding my inability to be disappointed!
Titus Andronicus is certainly a must see if you have the chance, however, even if it ends up being another Shakespeare play I would, from my limited experience say “go for it”, as it certainly made me feel proud of the history and culture of England.