I went to see this, a couple of weeks ago, at the Globe Theatre in South London. For those of you that don't know, the Globe is a restoration (or re-creation) on the same site as the theatre of Shakespeare's time. I went with my mother. We had booked the tickets fairly late; by the time we decided to go, there were very few left. So we got pretty cheap tickets, with limited view.
Prior to going, we had spent some of the day on a river cruise, and had also eaten sumptuously. The weather was warm, and being with my mother was really quite tiring.
I have to confess that I am not a great Shakespeare fan; there's not a play he wrote that Verdi didn't improve /g! Actually, that's not strictly true, I do like several of his plays, but it all depends on performance.
There seems to me to be broadly two ways of performing Shakespeare. One is naturalistic, acknowledging the blank verse, but, nevertheless, delivered in the natural inflections of spoken English. The other is, well, that's broadly what we got at The Globe.
Obviously, we were at a disadvantage having a side view, and one that was well forward of where the proscenium would be, if there was a proscenium. And I certainly didn't go in expecting lots of scenery and furniture, so that was okay.
We had not been there that long when I started thinking that this was dire. It was everything I don't like about Shakespeare, over-delivered lines by hammy actors, no sense of all of the characters. It wasn't quite as bad as sitting in a classroom listening to fellow pupils sight-reading the lines, but the standard of acting seemed no better than a Sixth Form production.
Then I rebuked myself. Who am I to pass judgement like this? It's not like I am a regular attender of the straight theatre, and I don't believe I have been to Shakespeare in all the time I have lived in London. I actually have no right criticising these actors.
And then another character appeared and started speaking, and acting, and I knew Iwasn't wrong. To have one actor/character who delivers exactly what I want serves to display the shortcomings of the others. This was Tim McMullan, as Melancholy Jaques. His "All the World's A stage" was a thing of beauty, even though I did think I was a bit like people who go to Turandot just to hear 'Nessun Dorma'. And good though he was, he wasn't enough to make us stay for the second half. But at least we could say we'd been to The Globe.