More Shakespearian Stuff

On Saturday M and I braved our hangovers to finally get down to the Globe Theatre for a production. Given it’s all of 15 minutes walk from our house and we’ve had most of summer days relatively free while job hunting it’s a bit of a travesty that we never went earlier, but them’s the breaks. Given also that it was splendid fun and only five quid for a standing ticket I’m slightly annoyed at myself for this oversight! Ah well, next season..

The play we saw was Timon of Athens, one of Shakespeare’s less well known efforts, co-written with one of his proteges, Thomas Middleton. The story centres around Timon (in olde English ‘Tymon’), a rich member of Athens society whose life revolves around throwing lavish parties for fellow Athenians, and granting opulent gifts to people who please him. All of this Timon does in the theme of being generous for generosity’s sake, but the people around him, his so-called friends, take advantage of his good nature, so much so that he ends up in the poor house hounded by debtor’s agents. All his money gone, Timon ends up in the wilderness where he chances upon some gold in the ground while digging for roots to eat – and almost immediately people arrive, having smelled the money from afar. Timon, now an angry, bitter, broken man, uses the money to abuse them and funds an attack on Athens itself. Eventually he dies, kept company only by his faithful steward who watches over his fall into madness.

As you can plainly see, it’s a dark morality tale that fits well with the current financial situation going on in the world. Thankfully the story flows with moments of high humour, especially in the interchanges between Timon and Apemantus, a local philosopher who refuses Timon’s generosity and points out how the people around him are not really his friends. The production at the Globe is beautifully considered and executed, with a running theme of birds – the carrion crows of debtors dressed in black flying down from netting suspended over the theatre floor – harrying Timon increasingly through the play. We were lucky enough to be standing in the round, something I highly recommend, and the actors come through the crowd regularly – sometimes from the doors and sometimes from the sky, rappelling down from the netting above, sometimes throwing chocolate coins (my favourite method of entrance).

The Globe itself is a stunning recreation of the original Globe theatre, and a must see if you’re visiting London, especially with the high quality production values and cheap standing ticket prices. The seated patrons rise on vertical walls in a circle around the standing floor, the round, and the stage itself is situated at one side of this circle. Luckily for us it was a bright, sunny autumn day which made standing without any cover a much more enjoyable affair, although our legs were pretty sore at the end of two and a half hours. So take comfortable shoes and a bottle of water to drink (no glass).

Thanks to the entire cast and crew of Timon of Athens for a highly enjoyable show. We’ll be sure to visit again as soon as we can – just make sure it doesn’t rain again!