Old met new on opening night of As you Like It at Melbourne’s Pop Up Globe Theatre.
Providing the ‘old’ was Shakespeare’s famous comic play, dating back to 1623. The open air design of the Pop Up Globe Theatre provided the ‘new’ for Melbourne audiences, as did the contemporary references in the production.
The Pop Up Globe is the world’s first full-scale temporary working replica of the second Globe, the theatre Shakespeare and his company built and opened in 1614 after the first Globe theatre burned to the ground.
The replica was originally planned as a one-off in Auckland to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 2016. It proved so successful that, after an extended season in Auckland, it’s now come to Melbourne’s specially-christened Shakespeare Gardens, adjacent to the Sidney Myer Music Bowl.
Shakespeare’s popular comedy opened the Melbourne season and while parts of the storyline and dialogue are faithful to the original works, there are also many contemporary additions. These include props such as vegemite and songs such as ‘My Heart Will Go On’ from Titanic and Foreigner’s ‘I Want to Know What Love Is’. This makes for some very funny moments on stage.
According to experts, contemporary references were a feature of performances at the original Globe.
Other ‘historical’ features included the costumes. Frequent interaction between the cast and those nearest the stage amused the audience throughout the night. Those targeted included the standing-room audience in front of the stage, known as the `groundlings’, and those in the private boxes which front onto the stage.
A short shower didn’t curtail the enthusiasm of the `groundlings’, who had access to bright orange rain jackets. Like those in the three tiers of seating, all audience members could come and go as they pleased during the performance. The lights stayed on throughout the entire show, ensuring both the cast and audience could see the reactions of all in the theatre.
As You Like It tells of Rosalind, the daughter of a banished duke who falls in love with Orlando, the disinherited son of one of the duke’s friends. When she is banished from the court by her evil uncle, Duke Frederick, Rosalind takes on the appearance of a boy, calling herself Ganymede. She travels with her cousin Celia and the jester Touchstone to the Forest of Arden, where her father and his friends live in exile. New friends are made and families are reunited.
As was the case in Shakespeare’s time, all members of the cast of 16 were male. Jonathan Tynan-Moss did a great job playing a girl (Rosalind), then playing a girl pretending to be a boy (Ganymede). Stanley Andrew Jackson III also played Celia with aplomb.
There really wasn’t a weak link within this very hard working cast. Not only did many have double roles, they also had to play musical instruments, sing and dance. Several even had to play sheep! Add to this the physical demands of their roles, given the amount of slapstick humour and high jinks in the production, and all must have been exhausted by the end of the night!
As You Like It is one of four of Shakespeare’s plays being staged at the theatre. The others are Much Ado About Nothing, Othello and Henry V. There’s also a new family friendly comedy, Around the Globe in 60 Minutes, which looks at the thrills and spills of the London Globe Theatre and the history and characters of the period.
A range of ticket prices are available, with ‘groundlings’ passes costing $20 for all shows, apart from the Around the Globe show tickets, which cost $15.23.
Before purchasing tickets it is a good idea to read about the tickets on offer. `Groundlings’ do stand for the entire performance, while those with back issues may want to avoid the bench seats, which lack back support. However given the close proximity to the action provided by many of these tickets, it could be worth sacrificing a little comfort for the historical `Shakespearean atmosphere!’
Shows at the Pop Up Globe are scheduled until 12 January. Visit the Pop Up Globe website for more information and tickets.
Jenny Burns attended the opening night of As You Like It as a guest of the Pop Up Globe Theatre.
*Photo credit: Jay Wennington
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