Friday 24 September 2010

Back to the past

The Globe Theatre; well-known, authentic, popular. Covered seating (benches, actually) for the luckier few; standing room under the stars (or rain) for the rest. It sounded rather romantic, and we were looking forward to it. It would be fun, interesting. And Shakespeare - who could fail to enjoy Shakespeare?

But it wasn't fun at all. It was extremely uncomfortable, and had it been raining, a lot of people would have got very wet. The performance was (we thought) mediocre, and many of the words gabbled. The benches were hard (that's what benches are. We should have known), and most of them had no backs to lean against. I'm afraid we left during the interval. John (glass always half-full) was perfectly happy to leave; I (glass half-empty) thought of all the money we'd wasted and all the expectations dashed.

What I don't get - really don't get - is the attraction of having things 'just the way they used to be'. Hard seats and open air and all that. (I feel the same about original pianos; they sound tinkly, and it's for good reason that the piano has been improved over the years, and yet many musicians love them.) If we really wanted authenticity, presumably we would all have been peeing in the gutter during the interval, and no-one hankers after that.

I'm sure lots of people enjoy this back-to-the-past thing, but I like my creature comforts. There are many things about the 21st. century that I don't like, but modern seating and roofs and warmth are not among them.


  1. My back gives me major grief if I sit with it unsupported for more than about half an hour, so I sympathise, Frances.

    As I understand it (I could be wrong here) nobody would have just sat passively through a whole play in the Globe - they would have wandered around to buy something to eat, talk to their friends or see if they could get a better view. We're imposing our modern way of doing theatre on to a structure that was never intended to take it. We've given up throwing things at the cast and booing when we think they're rubbish (though it's tempting, sometimes, isn't it?) so why would we think it's a good idea to sit on benches when we're not used to doing so?

    Having said that I do see the arguments about seeing Shakespeare in the sort of milieu the plays were written for - I just don't see why there can't be proper seating. And, surely, the theatre would be more popular (and therefore more profitable) if there was no danger of getting rained on?

    Perspex roof, anybody...?

  2. Hi, Alis. I think The Globe does close for the winter (well, after last winter it would have to), but I'm sure you're right in that people used to wander around during the performance and things were much more informal.

    Lots of people seem to love the Globe, but maybe they're hardier than we are/were.

  3. Reminds me a common experience at a nearby living history museum that includes a 19th century Quaker church. Invariably, after learning that services were lengthy, one or two or more people wonder how they could have been comfortable on the backless benches for that long.

    The answer was similar.

    The folks there spent a lot of their time kneeling and standing.

    And the reason a lot of people like experience like that is that it helps them feel tough and momentarily superior, as if they are rising above the modern need for luxuries such as cushions and spinal support.

    And living full lives into your seventies and eighties.

  4. Nevets - I have to confess that we hired cusions at £1 each. It was (almost) worth it.