I was so excited when a PR for the Globe Theatre invited me to a special bloggers’ theatre event. I’ve absolutely loved the Globe ever since returning to the UK, partly because it’s such a brilliant way to introduce children to Shakespeare. Ok, not teeny tiny tots – but my daughters have been going since they were 10 and 8 and they’ve always really enjoyed it. Once you tell a child that it’s perfectly ok to fidget, to eat, to drink, to move around, to swap seats, to sit on the floor, to cheer and boo and even to whisper (a tiny bit) then most of the boredom of any theatrical performance is gone. Shakespeare, which can seem so dry-as-dust and which you might well believe requires total concentration, actually works brilliantly in the setting of the Globe, where the actors can mingle with the groundlings (people standing in front of the stage), pop up on balconies, declaim from little pulpits or just caper about on the stage itself. It shouldn’t be surprising that it works so well here – after all, it was Shakespeare’s own theatre – but it is pretty astounding that it is STILL working brilliantly, centuries on, performing to a generation with the collective attention span of one solitary gnat.
So, having jumped up and down with pleasure for a while, I asked the PR which play we’d see. ‘King John,’ came the answer. Oh. Oh very dear.
The trouble is, when Child Two was doing her LAMDA awards (it stands for London Academy of Music and Dramatic Act, and is brilliant for shy kids) she had to learn Lady Constance’s speech from King John. It took her an age to memorise, so to help, I bought a second hand DVD of King John acted by the RSC on eBay. It starred Leonard Rossiter and a few other big names and we settled down with high hopes. Oh my goodness! The budget for costumes and set must have been nothing. The castle ramparts were so obviously cardboard they virtually still had ‘cornflakes’ written on them. The crowns had clearly been hastily spray-painted round the back and the swords bent in the breeze. All right, all that stuff doesn’t matter a jot – but I’m afraid the acting was even worse. It was painful. Eventually the screen darkened and we thought it had ended at last – only for a shaky sign to be held up saying End of Part One. Well, I’m sorry, but the DVD player was turned off and that was that.
So it was with some trepidation that I mentioned the outing to Child Two. She rolled her eyes when I told her which play it was, but very gamely she agreed to accompany me.
Well, we had a fantastic time. There were no famous actors (as far as I know), there was no scenery at all, let alone cardboard ramparts, and the swords were probably bendy – but it was amazing. Brilliant and gripping pretty much from start to finish. But I must admit I’d taken the precaution of printing out the synopsis of King John from Wikipedia to take with us.
There was an American couple sitting next to us and I was a bit worried they weren’t getting it. Sure enough, the girl turned to me and said, ‘what exactly is going on now?’ I gave her a quick run-through (thanks to our synopsis) and her husband nodded sagely. ‘Do you get it?’ she asked him. ‘Of course,’ he said. ‘It’s Game of Thrones.’
Do go along to the Globe this summer – they have a great programme on and there are 700 standing tickets for every performance. Wait for a beautiful summer’s day or evening, take a picnic and a blanket, and enjoy the most beautiful words in our language in their rightful setting. A priceless experience – for only a fiver.