Let the revels commence!

Staged reading of Merry Wives Quarto One, Globe Education, Southwark. 24 August 2008.

After an intense weekend of extreme history back in March I decided I am officially a Shakespeare Geek. There is no way around it, absolutely nothing I can do about it. I think this is best summed up by a visit to the Globe Education Centre to see a staged reading of the first quarto of The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Now in my defence I was far from alone. Not only did I manage to be joined by two fellow fanatics of my own acquaintance, but the small education theatre was actually quite well supported.

It is a slightly odd setting. The Globe education centre has more than a whiff of Eastcheap about it; a slightly run down, mouldering air that is strangely juxtaposed with an intensely active atmosphere. Falstaff would have bee right at home.

The staged area inside the Education centre is based upon Jacobean indoor theatre models, so with an active imagination (Overlooking the old church pews) one could almost visualize the Blackfriars theatre aglow with candles and young beaux de monde sitting around the edge of the stage. There were even coffee and biscuits available.

As to the reading itself it was most entertaining. The reading was given a vaguely PG Wodehouse setting with a plethora of plus fours, summer tweeds and cloth hats. Falstaff had the ring of a music hall northern comedian. Mater Shallows (looking unnervingly like one of my best friends) was delightfully ridiculous and on the whole it was an entertaining afternoon.

It was also interesting (and here you nay wish to look away if you do not want to read a geek fest revolving around quarto and folio editions) to compare the difference between the production usually performed and the substantially shorter first quarto. It seems likely this was a piece remembered by the actor playing the part of the host as his dialogue was on the whole most accurate. It was substantially shorter than the folio edition running at just under two hours in performance.

The inside space also gave the piece a different feel. Perhaps most interesting was the fact that the majority of the actors were given their time free. A good example- O thought- of the lengths some people will go to.

Perhaps there are more of us geeks out there after all. Perhaps that’s not so bad.


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