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 I was a little disappointed with the line up for the Bath Literary Festival this year, as I couldn't find very many events I wanted, and was able, to attend. However, one I did like the look of was an interview with Dominic Dromgoole, former Artistic Director of the Globe Theatre, talking about his book about the 'Hamlet: Globe to Globe' tour.

For those who don't know, the tour marked the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death by trying to take a production of 'Hamlet' to every country in the world.

Dominic Dromgoole, 20.05.17


It was very interesting. Dominic started by explaining that he is a local boy; he was brought up in Wedmore, so coming to Bath feels like coming home. He also pointed out that the parents of one of the Hamlet cast, another local boy, were in the audience!

He explained that the idea of the tour came about in a 'louche bar' where he and other members of the Globe team were drinking cocktails at the end of an away day (he commented that the Globe doesn't get any government support, and very little sponsorship, so the money comes from the box office and they felt, therefore, able to spend it on such things!). They were unsure, at first, whether it would even be possible, but (he claims) decided to go ahead anyway! It followed on from the season they had had at the Globe, where they performed all of Shakespeare's plays, with companies from around the world performing in a wide variety of languages, so they were able, to some extent, to build on the relationships built with various international theatres and companies.

He explained that they then had to decide which play to take on tour, and decided on Hamlet on the basis that it has iconic appeal, and unlike other plays (such as Romeo and Juliet) it is elusive; there is always more or the actors to discover, so they are less likely to get bored and stale over a long run.

He was asked about how well the play was understood, in non-English speaking countries, particularly as there were no sur-titles, and in some of the countries visited the play would not be (well) known.  He explained that, as at the Globe, they performed in natural light or with the audience, as well as the players, lit, which allows cast and audience to make eye contact with one another, and that key parts of the play 'read' clearly even of you don't understand the words -the opening scene, on the battlements, is a readily understandable scenario,  Claudius can be recognised as an authority figure, ghosts are well known in most cultures, and so on. 

Over all it was an interesting conversation, I was glad to have gone. And it left me really wanting to see a version of Hamlet at the Globe! 

After the event, I had a chance to buy a book (although I bought an older one rather than Globe to Globe, to start with!) and say hello. 

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Sometimes you have to wait for the Good Things to happen. Way back in February, I saw Stephen Fry tweet that he was going to be appearing at the Globe Theatre, in Twelfth Night, in the autumn. So I rushed off to the theatre's website, booked a pair of tickets, and then asked my friend J if she'd like to meet up and go with me. And then we waited for 8 months, and on Wednesday we both travelled to London to meet up and see the show.

We had tickets for the matinee performance, so had also take the opportunity to book tickets for the British Museum's exhibition 'Shakespeare - Staging the World'.
'The Long View' -Wenceslaus Hollar, 1647
The exhibition uses Shakespeare's life and works as a prism through which to look at the world he lived in, and London in particular, and brings together some fascinating articles, interspersed with videos of actors (including Anthony Sher and Paterson Joseph) performing extracts from some of the plays.

There were maps of London, tapestries of Warwickshire, a 1st Folio, an actual page in Shakespeare's own hand (part of a play about Sir Thomas More) as well as other items with less immediate connections to Shakespeare - including a hand bill for a bear pit (and the skull of a bear!) the eye of Edward Oldcorne (executed for alleged involvement in the Gunpowder Plot)

Reliquary containing right eye of Edward Oldcorne, 1606
And the Funeral Achievements of Henry V (including a decorative shield which is believed to date from the late 1300s - it's just amazing to think that this could have survived so long.

I had slightly mis-calculated how long stuff would take us, so we ended up having to run the last bit to the Globe in order to avoid being late for the start of the show!

We were seated in the upper gallery, which (as the name suggests) is right up at the top of the theatre, but we had great seats (or rather, spaces on the wooden bench!) - right at the front.
View from our seats, during the interval
The show was excellent - it's a very traditional version of the play, with an all-male cast, and full period costume. Mark Rylance (Olivia) was the complete, upper-class lady - dead white make up, huge farthingale - very much the great lady, rather than the young, naive girl she is sometimes played as.
(Photo Nigel R Barklie/Rex)
Olivia glides across the stage (rather like the ladies in 'Trumpton'), making 3-point turns when she needs to turn or sit. There are occasional moments where she slipped over in to pantomime dame, but they were infrequent.

Samuel Barnett's Sebastian and Johnny Flynn's Viola were superb -they were dressed in identical white doublets and hose, with long hair, and managed to make their mistaken identity became believable.
 Liam Brennan's Orsino was very convincing in his (slightly uncomfortable) attraction to 'Cesario'.

Stephen Fry's Malvolio presented as a dry, pedantic bureaucrat, less malignant than the character is sometimes presented as being, arrogant and awkward in his hopes of affection from Olivia, and pitiable in his imprisonment.
taking a bow
In all, it was a highly enjoyable piece of theatre, and while the run at the Globe was fully sold out and has, I think, now ended, the play is transferring to the West End - I'd say it's well worth booking tickets,  if you can. And I very much hope that having returned to the stage after so long, Stephen Fry will be considering more productions in future.


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