Thursday, April 23, 2009

Cry "For England, Bill and Sam!"

Today is the official birthday of Bill, and England's saint's day, St George, him of the dragon et al. Today's correct quote would be:
Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and St George!’

The second Globe, from Hollar's 1638 'Long View of Southwark'.

So one has to wonder who Sam might be. Sam was an American tourist, who visited London, and being (like many American tourists) a fan of William Shakespeare (but a lot smarter than the apocryphal American tourist who thought Bill was a clever dude because he used all those quotes...) went to see the monument where the Globe Theatre had been. He was shocked to find there wasn't one, only a grubby marker.

The New York Times:
On his first visit to London in 1949, he had sought traces of the original theater and was astonished to find only a blackened plaque on an unused brewery.

He decided to do something about it. He was Sam Wanamaker, actor, director, and clearly a visionary. The NY Times again:
He found this neglect inexplicable, and in 1970 launched the Shakespeare Globe Trust, later obtaining the building site and necessary permissions despite a hostile local council. He siphoned his earnings as actor and director into the project, undismayed by the skepticism of his British colleagues.

The world has another Globe in it, where it should be - on the south side (the better side) of the Thames. And now there's a marker there for Sam, voted for by 'the people'.

Sam's spot. James.

Shakespeare's Globe is a magnificent piece of experimental archaeology; one of the most critical sites for the understanding of humanity on the planet, and a bargain day out for a tourist in London - with, if you time it right, a gloss of culture and art and history over a ribald, rattling good evening out and tall tales and swordfights enough for anyone. Not to mention patter enough to knock a rapper.

From Wiki:
While many had said that the Globe reconstruction was impossible to achieve, he persevered for over twenty years, and eventually a new Globe theatre was built according to a design based on the research of historical advisor John Orrell.
Shakespeare's Globe at night, 2008. James.

I'm no ardent fan of Shakespeare; the shadow he casts over English is too large too allow any debate, not a territory I like; but he has a number of things going for him that don't usually make the list. He saw, like many of his time, spelling as a convenience, not a rule, and stretched and kicked-wider English to the extent he is the single most quoted author in the language. (Most people would think of the great declamations, but in fact most of us use will a Shakespeare quote a day without even realising. He is in the very warp and weft of our language.) His spelling is so appealing to a poor speller like me right down to not even spelling his name consistently in the few of his signatures we have. (A fascinating insight to them here.)

'Why are we waiting?' Groundings (And band) pre-performance. James.

We have visited the Globe on many occasions; in fact it was a given stop on our return to the UK last year (and some of the pics are from then - and a great evening out with friends and ex- colleagues Xanthe and Nick) and we have been lucky enough to 'introduce' many friends and family to this theatre.

It would be simplistic to assume that what you get is theatre in Shakespeare's day. It is not, and cannot be; but it is as live as Shakespeare's theatre must have been, with a passing jet airliner or incautious move by a 'groundling' worked into the day's performance by the cast, and theatre where the audience are integral to the story. It is as close as we can get, within reason.

Take a bow. James.

Shakespeare obviously did not live to see the hold his plays would have on the world. Sadly Sam Wanamaker didn't live to see the new Globe completed, either, but I'd hope he realised what a tremendous achievement it is.

Even it's making is of note. It's the first thatched building allowed in London since the Great Fire (for which, of course, there was already a monument in 1970...) and the first thatched building in London to have a sprinkler system fitted - on the outside. But most important of all, it's heart is of English oak - a wooden wall of art.


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