A review on Globe on Tour, and conversations with Isabel Marr, Andrius Gaučas and Sarah Murray of Shakespeare’s Globe
Walking into a performance by Shakespeare’s Globe is always refreshing: the stage is bare, a stripped version of the Globe Theatre’s set, and the Players greet the audience with a merry ol’ jig from all directions. The Players – what actors are called in the plays of Shakespeare – have more opportunity to get up close and personal the audience, making it rather interactive. Most recently, this recipe was brought to Victoria Theatre in Singapore, which was transformed to mirror the nature of the Globe Theatre.
In every tour that Shakespeare’s Globe does, the audience will be treated to an Audience Choice night, and it’s no different in Singapore.
The rules of selection are simple: when the Players say the names of the three plays, the audience will cheer for what they would like to watch. The title with the loudest cheers will be performed that night.
Having been part of productions myself, I cannot begin to imagine the madness and adrenaline of leaving the night’s performance to chance, let alone reciting the correct lines. And lest we forget, this is Shakespeare we’re dealing with. The ‘thees’ and ‘thous’ and ‘wherefores’ don’t just roll off our tongues naturally.
The Players throw a beach ball into the audience to break the ice, and to select the person who would determine the loudest cheers; a ‘non-partisan adjudicator’, they say. In the first round of raucous cheers, it’s a toss-up between Twelfth Night and The Comedy of Errors, but our adjudicator decides on the latter.
The Players swiftly make their way through stage doors to get changed. With close to nothing to distract the audience from the acting, the Players prove extremely adept in carrying their text and working the small space.
During a conversation with associate director Isabel Marr, she shares how the Players’ understanding of the text is crucial to the 12-week rehearsal process for the trio of plays. The Players, together with directors and text experts, spend three to four days paraphrasing every line of one play. Actor Andrius Gaučas, shares that he values this part of the process, as everyone in the company comes prepared and ready.
The blocking – the precise movement and positioning of actors on stage – used in the performance is true to the traditions of performing in the Globe. The Globe is a theatre in the round, which means that Players need to ensure that they play to everyone in a 360-degree manner.
The modern Western theatre notion of playing to a front-facing audience does not work in this case. In every interaction between characters, the Players stand diagonally across from the person they are speaking to, ensuring that, at any one point, every audience member at every corner would at least see one character’s face. Of course, the change in stage proves to be slightly more challenging for the actors, and takes some getting used to.
The comedic and artistic choices made by the director and actors in the portrayal of existential and identity crises were playful and tongue-in-cheek. Both Marr and Gaučas talk about rehearsals as a collaboration; everyone has to come up with new ways of presenting a character or story moment. This yields a tightly-knit ensemble, whose flow on stage is a joy to watch. I ask them what they wish the audience would leave with.
Marr shares, “I want the play to affect them in some way. Even if they hate it; I would rather they feel that than feel nothing at all. I would want them to be changed in some way, ideally positively.”
But it is Gaučas, who plays Olivia in Twelfth Night, who sums it up succinctly. “I want the audience to leave with a question. About their own behaviour, family, ideas they hold, the world around them. Because that is the main point of theatre right – for all of us to look at the world and ask ‘why’. We need to continually raise questions to think,” he muses.
Globe on Tour will be showing in Singapore until 15 September, Sunday. Book your tickets here.