Shakespeare’s Globe was a magical theater. When it was demolished (by Puritans in 1613), and replaced by tenements), it was a true tragedy. But the modern reconstruction (1993) is almost as amazing. The layout is three floors, with a "common" in the middle so that some people can stand. There is an overhang above the stage to project the sound. The experience is magical. Because most theaters are made or set up to fit the play, so there are some small changes. But when done in the same setting that he set it for, the play really comes to life, as if it was the 1st time anyone had ever performed the play. It is always great to see Shakespeare's most colorful character in his most authentically English play. The pubs and jolly fat men are like a trip back through time.
Many consider Falstaff to be Shakespeare’s greatest character. But it is much harder to play him that it seems. You can interpret him any way you see fit. But no doubt, when he is done well, there is nothing better. It is amazing to see a good Falstaff. And at London’s Globe Theater on July 29th, I saw a great one. Roger Allam. He played Falstaff to the crowd. The role can also be played darkly or non-chalantly. But Allam didn’t dawdle at all, everything was snap-snap. He almost didn’t have a dark side. He was amazing at warming the crowd. People were laughing so hard they were crying. The direction also was very good, because it utilized the entire stage. Many people place rings of characters around the star, but this director made the star bounce around, and sometimes he was alone while everyone else was spread around the opposite side. It sounds easy to do this, but it takes true genius to be able to format it all and make it work. Directing a play may sound easy, but is one of the hardest things to do.
Hal was very prince-like. He acted like royalty gone wrong, but kept in on a human level. It's hard not to overdo it and turn into the superhero-prince that many have attempted. He was like a puppet, though. He seemed rehearsed. It was as if everything he was doing was controlled by someone else. He was funny, but like a mime is funny. He was sort of empty. Poins was like also a crowd-pleaser. He was extremely flashy, wearing a suit entirely gold! He and Hal made a hilarious duo though. Their pranks on Falstaff made the theater shake with laughter. King Henry was also impressive. He was a realistic king and disappointed at his son. He raged around the stage in a state of near hatred. It takes real talent to weave in and out of emotions like that Percy was very funny with his wife, and a beast on the battle field. He roared like an animal. Falstaff was great without stealing the show. The interpretation was also very interesting, because instead of Falstaff and Henry IV both flip-flopping bad father-good father, Falstaff was always bad and vice-versa.
I would definitely try and see Shakespeare’s globe’s production of Henry the Fourth Parts I and II!