Tag Archive | "Globe Theatre"

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Review: Gabriel

Posted on 23 July 2013 by Ed Theakston

Gabriel Globe TheatreNew musical entertainment Gabriel will provide you with some of the most magical hours you will spend in a London theatre this summer. It is a new and joyously unclassifiable show, written by Samuel Adamson and spearheaded by trumpeter-extraordinaire Alison Balsom, which celebrates the musical genius of Henry Purcell and uses the real life character of John Shore, court trumpeter in the 1690s, as a vehicle to do so.

That said the show is not the story of either of these men’s lives. Purcell never appears as a character, and John Shore is more of a vehicle and narrator than leading role. The show is more a reflection on and a celebration of Purcell’s music and how it was informed by and reflected in the political and social events of “noisy Protestant England” in the 1690s.

The central character of John Shore is ingeniously split into two, meaning the show does not become either about a wholly male or female trumpeter while maintaining historical authenticity. Alison Balsom, with her natural valveless trumpet in hand, provides the playing, articulating Purcell’s music and portraying John’s virtuosic talent, for Richard Riddell’s brilliant and sensitive performance. Riddell launches the show into a stream of shorter plays and scenes, each in their own right a meditation on something that was happening in the period following the ‘Glorious Revolution’ while still also finding a contemporary resonance. While not having – or needing – a strong central narrative, there are threads of stories that carry on throughout, with certain character popping up time and again while others are more fleeting.

The much-discussed but never seen Henry Purcell connects each of Adamson’s vignettes, a pervading presence which informs everything that is seen. The playlets themselves, weaving together fact and fiction, take the audience from the Royal Courts to the Thames, via playhouses and battlefields, introducing you to a whole host of characters that are both recognisable and authentic. Particularly entertaining was the depiction of verbose waterman Francis Taylor, played marvellously by Sam Cox, who would make a great match for any London taxi driver today, spinning tall stories one after the other for his minstrel passengers. In a dramatic scene in the second act we see how his tales end up getting him into hot water.

The Shore family, father and two sons, were a real life virtuosic family of trumpet players, and through them Adamson articulates the era’s debates around the potential for the instrument. They are seen coming to blows; elder brother and heavy drinker Bill (Trevor Fox) extolls the traditional militaristic and patriotic qualities of the instrument and laments little brother John’s move from battlefield to theatre. John, a kind of protégé of Purcell’s, is meanwhile discovering the haunting, softer sounds that Purcell’s later trumpet works began to experiment with. While the young, mortally ill and war-hungry Prince William (Joshua James) who would not live past his twelfth birthday is seen to agree with Bill, Balsom treats us to a beautiful new arrangement of ‘Sound the Trumpets’ – Purcell’s birthday ode for Queen Mary – which perfectly showcases what John and Purcell were beginning to discover; her yearning notes effortlessly weave in and out of a beautiful countertenor vocal melody. Throughout the show she continues to demonstrate this sweetness of tone in the instrument’s range.

Dominic Dromgoole’s playful and brave production gives audiences a bit of everything: from the deliciously earthy, bawdy and crude (where for instance the trumpet becomes a hilarious phallic symbol), to the painfully romantic via the absurdly comic, all accompanied by a marvellous musical ensemble of instrumentalists and singers. The production is a varied, witty delight for Baroque enthusiasts, families and first-timers alike. The show is a perfect marriage of music and drama, and under the expert hand of Music Director Bill Buckley the ensemble of 18 actor-singers and 15 musicians plays Purcell’s music with more energy and passion than you’re likely to hear anywhere in London.

Of the large and impressive cast, Jessie Buckley shines in her dual roles as the lesbian soprano Arabella, briefly married to a female partner and later finding celibate refuge singing for mocking Queen Mary (Charlotte Mills), and as Kate, one of the four troublesome and arguing performers whose tempestuous love affairs mirror those of their characters in Purcell’s opera The Fairy Queen. As Arabella, Buckley portrays the ongoing pain of heartbreak beautifully especially in her gorgeous rendition of the ballad ‘Cold and Raw’, and is hilarious as the contrasting Kate; overblown and melodramatic as the character is, Buckley finds truth in her performance.

Famed trumpeter Alison Balsom is an indescribable success; never has a trumpet been played so beautifully – except perhaps in the hands of virtuoso John Shore himself. Joshua James also impresses as the weedy, sickly Prince William, as does Sam Cox as the wordy waterman and James Garnon and Barbara Marten, both in a range of roles.

Gabriel is something of a departure for the Globe, and it is surely owing to the venue’s admirable boldness that such a glorious entertainment like this has been staged. That is the overriding strength of the Globe, its ability to constantly and exquisitely surprise audiences year on year, show after show. This production is without a doubt yet another exquisite surprise from the powerhouse team at the Globe that is sure to leave you with a smile on your face and a song in your heart.
Gabriel is playing at the Globe Theatre until 18 August. For more information and tickets, see the Globe Theatre website.

Ed Theakston

Ed Theakston

Ed has worked as an actor, director, lighting designer, and writer for a number of years. He is currently training at East 15 Acting School. He has a keen and diverse interest in theatre and has gained experience working in many different styles, from musical theatre to Stanislavski to devising. This year Ed has started writing reviews regularly for Fourthwall Magazine, and his blog ‘Into Training’ is available to read on the Fourthwall website.

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Guest blog: Othello in Arabic

Posted on 17 April 2013 by Abdulla Al Asam

Abdulla at the Globe

Last week, Abdulla Al Asam performed at Shakespeare’s Globe as part of Globe Education’s Sam Wanamaker Festival. The annual celebration brings together 42 students from the leading UK accredited drama schools. This year, Globe Education also welcomed Abdulla and his colleague Mohammed Ziyara who, from the Youth Activities Department, Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage, Qatar, as part of Qatar-UK 2013 Year of Culture. Abdulla shares his thoughts with AYT…

As an actor, I never expected that my first taster of performing Shakespeare would take place in the country of his birth, let alone a location so fitting as Shakespeare’s Globe theatre. Of course, I have gained a large amount of experience performing modern drama in Qatar, which perhaps is to be expected in a country whose recent development has come to define modernity.

It was this cultural contrast between the UK and Qatar that made my experience at the Sam Wanamaker Festival at Shakespeare’s Globe so enjoyable and beneficial.

My colleague Mohammed Ziyara and I were invited to participate in the festival, alongside 42 students from UK drama schools, by Globe Education, as part of Qatar UK 2013 Year of Culture. Qatar UK 2013 is a year-long celebration of the long-lasting friendship between Qatar and the UK and aims to cultivate mutual understanding between the two countries. Our inclusion definitely brought a different perspective to the weekend, and it was a brilliant experience sharing knowledge and bouncing ideas in an international group.

The weekend involved a variety of workshops and classes, each led by an expert who helped us improve our performance skills. I found all the Globe staff I met to be extremely helpful and encouraging, but the chance to talk about acting with students in the UK who share my interests and passions was a real highlight of the trip. As a whole, I would describe my experience as both unique and extreme.

What I found most encouraging was the internationality of our medium. The UK is, of course, home to not just Shakespearean-era plays, but a whole variety of modern theatre. Working with British students in the weekend’s workshops and bringing in various performance elements that I had learnt in my home country was a great experience.

I found that acting and humour easily transfers over boundaries. My highlight of the weekend was performing the castle garden scene from Othello with Mohammed in front of an audience of 1,500 on the Globe’s stage – in Arabic! With very few of the audience able to speak our language, my ability to translate the scene through my acting was truly tested!

Standing on the stage, I felt very intimately connected with the audience and the Arabic humour we brought to the scene was definitely appreciated by those watching our performance. Throughout Iago’s devious discussion with Othello about Desdemona, we used our environment to great effect to bring Othello’s passion to life. At one point, a pillar even became Desdemona!

The weekend left me feeling even more excited by my craft and inspired with a huge range of new ideas. Exchanging these ideas with students from another culture has also really highlighted to me the benefit of Qatar UK 2013 and the cultural exchange it is promoting. I would like to thank everyone involved in the Sam Wanamaker Festival for giving me such a unique experience. And I am looking forward to the chance to welcome some UK drama students to Qatar in the future.

Image: Abdulla Al Asam performs at Shakespeare’s Globe as part of Globe Education’s Sam Wanamaker Festival, Sunday 7 April, 2013. Photographer: Ellie Kurttz 2013.

Abdulla Al Asam

Abdulla Al Asam

Abdulla Al Asam has appeared in various Qatari TV shows such as 'Tesaneef' and 'Painted Strings'. He has also been featured in several national commercials promoting community ideals for Qatar’s Supreme Council of Information and Communication Technology and Supreme Education Council. Abdulla lives in Doha, where he works as both an air traffic controller and as an actor. His most recent theatre play was 'The 8th Day of the Week'. In his free time, Abdulla enjoys reading, running and playing on his computer.

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Mind over matter: Preservation in a digital age

Posted on 18 July 2012 by Katey Warran

As a consequence of continual developments in the digital world, the way in which we acquire and document knowledge is changing. The arrival of the Kindle has revolutionised how we see books; iPads and netbooks have changed how we function in the work place and social media is fast changing how we communicate.

It is pretty amazing, but these new ideas should not make us blind to how important it is to keep recording history. Just because we now live in a fast-paced world where everything can be saved to a hard drive in an instant or tweeted for all the world to see does not mean that we shouldn’t work to record what we are doing and take time to look at how we got to where we are today. These technologies can actually help us to preserve history. I am talking about the importance of archiving.

There are so many amazing theatre collections out there and many wonderful people working to preserve our theatre world and make it available to the public.

Visiting theatre collections is often possible by booking in advance and giving a reason for your visit: the National Theatre, the Shakespeare Centre, the V&A theatre collections and the Globe all work like this. I personally love the Bristol theatre collection. Although they do not have a searchable online archive, they are extremely friendly if you contact them and they do have a list of their collections online so that you can see what they have before requesting to visit. They also hold lots of events and exhibitions. I contacted them regarding the history of sound in theatre and they invited me along, let me read in their library all afternoon and spoke to me at length about the history of the Bristol Old Vic.

I have also been lucky enough to pass through the doors of the Garrick Club which is home to a very extensive theatrical library and I was given a guided tour of their theatrical paintings and drawings. If you like theatrical art, they are definitely a good place to look and they have a great online searchable art collection.

However, if you don’t have the time to make a visit to a collection, there is also a lot you can find out online. Good examples of online searchable resources include Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre, the Royal Opera House (a favourite of mine, with lots of pictures of historical costumes) and the V&A, which has a selection of archives available online. The Rambert Dance Company is also currently undergoing the process of cataloguing and digitising their material so that it can be available for public use and they have received Lottery Funding to do so.

There are loads of really great ways to preserve digital material too. Storify in particular is quite fascinating. By pulling together interesting topics and building “social stories” – collating them into a narrative – it allows you to kind of document twitter. Many libraries and collections also now catalogue audio and digital material, for example The Routledge Performance Archive.

So, if you want to know a little bit more about how we got to where we are today in the theatre world, don’t be afraid to make contact and explore all the free resources that are available. It is a bit geeky, but hey, also really interesting!

Image by Anne G.

Katey Warran

Katey Warran

Katey is Marketing and Communications Officer of A Younger Theatre and is Marketing Officer at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. She does freelance marketing including working for the New Actors Company, loves all things digital and has a passion for Applied and Community Theatre. Katey also has an interest in philosophy, enjoys singing and country music, and is a tea addict.

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Review: Globe to Globe Festival: Love’s Labour’s Lost

Posted on 27 May 2012 by Eleanor Turney

Reactions to the Globe to Globe project (37 plays in 37 different languages) have mostly been along the lines of: but, Shakespeare’s all about the language! How will it be if you can’t understand any of it? Well, having seen a dozen now, I can say that it’s rather like opera. Opera-lovers wouldn’t think twice about going to see a show in Italian or French; it makes it easier in some ways to concentrate on the music. So with Shakespeare (which, let’s face it, often has rather silly plots), a similar approach is necessary: your brain latches onto bits and pieces of text, sure, but is mostly watching the visual and the spectacle. It makes you focus on costume, set, gesture and nuance in a way that is very easy to overlook if you’re concentrating on the language.

The same was true of Deafinitely Theatre’s Love’s Labour’s Lost: I don’t understand British Sign Language, but there are some signs – and gestures – that are universal. The sign for “sexy lady” for example, is pretty much as you’d imagine, as is “I don’t want to have sex with you, push off”. In a rather odd play which centres around a battle of the sexes (four men, four women, who all conveniently fall in love in neat pairs), I’m sure there were acres of nuance that I lost. However, in this sprightly and highly amusing version, there was enough less-subtle-stuff for those of us ignorant of BSL to get the gist, helped by synopses of each scene. It’s a very silly play with an even sillier ending, but this version – in the sudden sunshine – felt like a big party.

There was a real sense of community at the Globe. Everyone was talking and signing and laughing and hugging; there was a feeling that people were re-connecting, catching up and making new acquaintances. Applause/appreciation in BSL is shown by holding arms up, palms flat, and shaking  the hands. There was something oddly moving abut seeing the whole audience waving – much more so than during a curtain call characterised by polite clapping.

There was a lot to like about this production, not least the atmosphere that Deafinitely Theatre created at The Globe. Director Paula Garfield had worked hard – and successfully – to bring out the comedic aspects, which stopped the audience getting too bogged down by the rather ramshackle plot. Judicious cuts helped, too. Nadia Nadarajah was an impish and imperious Princess of France, quick to enjoy games at the expense of the men courting her and her ladies. The sparring between Matthew Gurney’s Berowne and Charly Arrowsmith’s Rosaline was fantastic to watch; Arrowsmith’s mocking signing become more and more languid as she wound Gurney up – you got the impression she could hardly be bothered to move her hands to insult him. He – in a rather natty pair of orange trousers – considers himself quite the intellectual, and their consequent bickering was handled with great dexterity.

What made this production work, for me, was the music. Perfectly judged, witty and expertly played, the music was performed to match up to the signs, to emphasise or illuminate – it made the jokes funnier and the pathos more dramatic. Played by Jon Whitton and Flora Curzon, and designed by Phillippa Herrick, the music really brought the threads of the production together for me. A lively and engaging production of one of Shakespeare’s odder plays.

Love Labour’s Lost was part of the Globe to Globe Festival. For more information on the rest of the Globe to Globe festival, see the website here.

Eleanor Turney

Eleanor Turney

Eleanor Turney is the Managing Editor of A Younger Theatre, as well as a freelance journalist, writer and editor. She has written for The Guardian, The Stage, The FT and Ideas Tap, and worked for the Poetry Society and the British Council.

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