Tuesday, May 29, 2007


The Play's the Thing!

(A nu-Author-ised Version)

The crowd’s quickly filing in through the doors and filling the courtyard of the Globe. A few dark clouds have loomed over since Hercules ran up the flagpole but the wiser, or at least more experienced, Groundlings know they're empty of threat.

A couple of young gents have tried muscling their way on to the stage - it's a new play and a great opportunity for the 'Gulls' to show off their feathers - but they must be new in town: The Globe doesn't allow that sort of thing. They're skulking off to one of the higher levels, faces reddening at the jeers of the apprentice boys.

The usual ladies are plying their trade - they'll need to be quick, the building is almost full and there’re signs of movement in the musicians’ box.

The noise inside is quite deafening, shouts of friends across the floor, apprentices greeting masters and their wives in the galleries running around, a few of the finer folk even higher. It's the new play by Shakspear, one of the actors - something about Hamlet. Several of the audience remember an old play, some even saw it across the river, but it didn't stick in their memories.

Most are expecting plenty of blood - the latest fashion, a good bit of revenge and a few jokes: All know they'll be plenty to talk about after - one of the delights of the new Globe is the arguments in the bars of the stews that take place regularly after one of Shakshaft's concoctions. Several of the crowd are just content to gaze around, mouths open, like dead codfish, stunned by the splendours of the new theatre.

The trumpets blast out and the apprentices cheer. A mix of hissing and hushing is followed by a drum role; the back curtain is thrown open, a couple of ordinance fire and a great loud march sets in.

Straight away the audience understands we’re in a court – some proud king is about to make his entrance, and four stage hands are carrying in the state – so, its official business, big declarations and lots of boasting expected.

In they come. A couple of lackeys in royal livery representing the hundreds of servants who could never fit on the stage, a priest or two, several courtiers – one of whom is an old man, (surely that’s the actor who was playing Caesar last Tuesday?) - there’s Shakspear at the back pretending to be a soldier – and in progresses the King with one of the older boys by his side as the Queen (Time they let him grow a beard and get out of that costume – it fitted him well when he did Titania a couple of year’s ago).

Where’s Burbadge?

Up in the balcony – dressed in black – several of the crowd took him for one of the Gulls who’d managed to sneak in – posing in black – quite a popular colour these days – but the regulation hat’s missing.

Is he a lover, or a puritan? Why’s he up there and not down on stage with the court? Amazing workmanship on that black doublet – rich whoever he is.

Cheers on the stage, echoed by the more roisterous in the crowd, as the King sits in his throne and the Queen takes a chair by his side.

One of the Groundlings bellows, just as he’s about to speak, “Watch out, there’s a black crow above your head!”

This gets a good laugh and gives Burbadge the chance to nod his acknowledgements to the adoring Globe. Great applause and stamping of feet, from some; hisses and shushes from others only stopped by a repeated trumpet clarion – the King rises and attention once again is drawn to the court.

Very few notice the thought behind the eyes of the soldier at the back – but there’ll be changes to the opening of the next performance, if the rest of the play goes well.

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