May 10, 2011, by Peter Kirwan

Shakespeare Poetry Hour @ The Underglobe

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Just a quick note on a thoroughly pleasant event last night. As part of the British Academy’s Literature Week, Elisabeth Dutton (who did wonders with Hoffman last year) directed a series of snippets designed to illustrate interactions between players and audiences, drawn from the early modern drama and later. The programme ran as follows:

  • Fulgens and Lucrece (Induction, with household members waiting for a play to begin)
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream I.ii (the Mechanicals’ first rehearsal)
  • John Manningham’s Diary (13 March 1602, the anecdote about Burbage, Shakespeare and a smitten citizen)
  • Romeo and Juliet (I.iii, the Nurse telling Juliet and Lady Capulet her life story)
  • Nicholas Nickleby (a character study of the Nurse’s deceased husband)
  • The Knight of the Burning Pestle (Induction, as a play is interrupted by two citizens and their apprentice)
  • Hamlet III.ii ("The Mousetrap")
  • Great Expectations (Pip describing a disastrous Hamlet)
  • The Epilogues from As You Like It, All’s Well that Ends Well, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest.

I’l be honest, these portmanteau shows aren’t my thing, but it was a lovely concept, pulling together recognisable and unfamiliar instances of audiences intervening in or being dragged into performances, blurring the boundaries between "real" and "fictive" worlds. Four game actors (Bill Buckhurst, Frances Marshall, Philip Bird, Vivien Heilbron) did a fine job, and it made for an entertaining hour in the Underglobe, the Globe’s central exhibition hall. It also set up the evening’s lecture by Laurie Maguire ideally. Most importantly though, it reminded me how much I really want to see a production of Burning Pestle (and I know I wasn’t the only one to think this), for even in the short Induction scene, I found myself laughing and drawn to the oblivious citizens and the charismatic Rafe.

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