Mr K and I are not far from hitting a momentous anniversary… it’s almost twenty years since we met. To mark the occasion, my wonderful and thoughtful husband decided to take me to Auckland to see the Shakespearean productions being put on at the highly reputed Pop Up Globe Theatre, in honour of our first date, which was to go see Kenneth Brannagh’s four hour epic, ‘Hamlet’ down town.
You see, he wooed me with Shakespeare, back in the day, making this Big Weekend O’ Shakespeare an entirely appropriate way to celebrate having spent twenty years with that special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.
The Pop Up Globe itself, is seriously impressive. It is an inventive and intimate modern space to host the Elizabethan plays and allows a uniquely accessible style of Shakespearean theatre… probably very much more in keeping with how period audiences would have experienced the plays. The space enables direct interaction with the audience that is quite impossible on a traditional stage with the cast a chasm away due to the orchestra pit. The groundlings facilitate this direct connection to the players, as the cast interact with the groundlings, the rising crowds in the galleries feel very much connected the the groundlings – leading to a feeling of being part of the play through this chain of people. The result is that the audience feels more a part of the play, being in among the players, and almost participating in the scene, rather than what we have become used to with Shakespeare – passively watching some poor sod in a ruffed collar proclaiming, ‘How now, brown cow?’ sounding like he has a plum in his mouth and a rod up his arse! It feels very much how I always imagined Shakespeare should be… rather than what we have been accustomed to.
Our first show was on Thursday night – fabulous seats in the Middle Gallery, front and centre, for Much Ado About Nothing – my favourite of Shakespeare’s comedies. At first I was a little confused, we seemed to have a crowd warming Dogberry encouraging us to sing the Banana Boat song for reasons that eluded me entirely, but somehow it set the scene perfectly – encouraged the crowd to not just passively watch the classic tale of mistaken identity, overheard gossip, boy meets girl, they hate each other but eventually discover they love each other, narrative. Instead the crowd are encouraged to more immersively engage in the acts that followed.