Sunday, August 14, 2011

About a Perfect Day

I went to a performance of Faustus at the Globe today. You'll be glad to know that I didn't feel nearly as lost as at the National Theater. The Globe, oddly enough, feels easier for a beginner.

I was a groundling, and went in a bit before the show began.

Words fail. But since words are what I have (I didn't take my camera, but will next time--yes, there's a next time!), here goes.

The building is glorious. It's so fun to walk in and be looking, just about eye level, at the thrust stage, to see the galleries rising around, and to see the boxes painted, the back of the stage painted with trompe-l'oeil decorations. The fake marble columns were my favorite.

I've read, as many of you have, lots and lots about theatrical practices and effects in an amphitheater type space. And there they were, playing out before me. I enjoyed looking around (though, I didn't try to pick any sweet young things up for the evening's entertainment, but only because I have you, dear readers!), watching people getting ready, and later watching people react to different stuff on stage.

I ended up two people back from the catwalk type area in front of the main thrust stage, which was a great place to be. There was lots of action played out there, and you could really see the actors. But I have a feeling other places would have felt as good, because the actors definitely played to the audience around the stage.

There were lots of pissing jokes, what can I say. In fact, the play was funny, almost too funny, through most of it. But it worked. They made the pranks seem appropriately wasteful and stupid. (Because, seriously, if you can do all this amazing magic, how about doing something useful, like curing plague or making good, potable water? Just a thought.)

It's apparent though, that the real meat of the play, the parts that matter most are at the beginning, where Faustus makes his deal, where Mephistophilis tells him honestly about hell (that whole medieval not being allowed to lie or trick you about your soul thing), and at the end, where he despairs. Between one and the other, it's sort of a song and dance to entertain and make sure you realize that Faustus isn't doing anything worthwhile with his abilities.

In some ways, a lot of plays are like that, but Faustus today struck me especially. Is that a flaw or no? Well, in this production, things were well done, so it was certainly entertaining enough.

It also made the Pope especially hateful by showing Bruno's aftereffects of torture.

But by the end of the play, the demons were too familiar, and thus not really horrifying, and the puppet thing was just weird. (The puppet dance at the very end was especially weird, but fun.)

You can tell a good play when the audience is slow to leave the theater, and this audience was slow, and hung about the bookstore in a huge crowd (yes, I was part of the crowd).


The play ended in early afternoon (gosh, I love seeing a play outdoors), and the way back to the subway or tube station passed Southwark Cathedral, and it was open, so in I went. I visited the grave markers of Lancelot Andrewes (you have to love his name! More kids named Lancelot!) and John Gower. And I had a lovely and informative conversation with one of the church docents (I'm not sure what to call her), who told me about a monument to a Mohican (sp?) who'd come to England in the early 18th century to ask the King to keep the colonists from messing with the tribal lands anymore, but who died without getting an audience. The marker was unveiled by E2 and a tribal leader from the Mohicans in 1996, a sort of long delayed (over delayed, no doubt) meeting. It's cool to hear stories like that.

One thing I really love about the docents (or whatever) at the various churches I've seen: they all seem to love their parish as a living community, and are wonderfully informative in such a friendly way.


One last thing. I feel pretentious calling the subway the "tube" and stupid calling it the "subway" because everyone else calls it the "tube." I think there's no way for me to feel unfake or unstupid in some linguistics matters.


  1. Why not call it the tube? That's what it's called. It's like calling it the T in Boston or the Metro in DC (or Paris). I don't think it's pretentious.

    Glad you enjoyed the play so much. I enjoy hearing about your travels - I'm probably one of the few people to say that I would have loved to have seen Gower's grave marker!

  2. I love the Globe so much, and I'm so glad they're putting some of the productions out on DVD nowadays -- it is SO great being able to show students how an early modern theater works in action.

  3. Yes to what NK said. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. In fact, I kept wanting to correct you every time you called it the subway, since there is no subway *train* in London, only pedestrian subways! :) You could be very formal and call it the London Underground, but I think *that* would be pretentious! ;)

    Glad you had a good time at the Globe. I *love* being a groundling. And it's only 5 pounds!

  4. Whoa, wait a minute, Dr. Virago. Isn't the London Underground a political movement?

  5. Okay, this is the first thing you have talked about that has actually made me jealous. Now I REALLY want to go to England.

  6. Ditto the others. Call it the "tube." If you want to talk about what to call the bathroom/toilet/WC/loo, that's a different conversation.

    What an awesome trip. You're getting in SOOOO much good stuff.

  7. The Globe is just the most amazing place!! So glad that you got to see Faustus there. One of my colleagues was in London for the month of July and just got back last week. She saw Faustus too and loved it. So cool!

  8. So glad you liked Faustus -- and the Globe. I always learn something about early modern theatre when I go there...

    And yes, it's the Tube. If you say subway, people will think you want an underground passage under a busy intersection.