Tuesday, 15 October 2013

A Night at the Globe

I’ve just experienced one of the best nights of my life. It wasn’t in Ireland on the Ring of Kerry, in Edinburgh outside the cafĂ© where J. K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter, or in York on the medieval wall, though those were all fantastic experiences. No, one of the best nights of my life happened in London last week. I got to see Macbeth at the Globe. That’s right, the Globe, Shakespeare’s Globe.
            The Globe itself looks gorgeous. When I stood inside as a groundling, I could look straight up at the night sky and see stars. I stood less than five feet from the stage while I watched Macbeth, but some people were right up against the stage. At one point during the play, certain people shook hands with Macbeth. “Want to kiss my ring?” he asked. Oh, yes, I thought, and wished I’d stood a little closer.
Macbeth and Malcom were both extraordinarily handsome. I don’t know why, but I was getting some Obi-Wan Kenobi vibes from Malcom—maybe it was the ginger hair and dry humor. I’ve never had a crush on Macbeth before, on account of all the murdering/insanity/general weirdness that surrounds the character, but I did when I saw him at the Globe. For the first time, I pitied his character. He was so in love with his wife at first. When he ran to her and hugged her tight in their first scene together, there was more emotion in that hug than there would have been in a kiss. Everything went a bit sour once he started murdering people, of course. 
            The play began with drums. I wish I had a recording of the music that was played live throughout the play. The play had its own soundtrack the way a film would, and it was spectacular. The music set the scene all on its own, drums and bagpipes and strings. The music during the final fight scene was intense; I was so pumped, I was ready to swordfight.
            The witches were appropriately creepy. Their costumes looked almost steampunk at first. Before Macbeth showed up for the first time, they dressed up for him—put on ivy crowns and something akin to lipstick. Knowing Macbeth’s witches, it was probably blood.
            All these details didn’t make the play perfect, though. Banquo did. He was played by none other than Billy Boyd.
            For those of you who don’t know, Billy Boyd played Peregrin Took in The Lord of the Rings. For those of you who don’t know me, I have an undying love for The Lord of the Rings trilogy. For years, I’ve dreamed of seeing one of the actors in person.
            I had no idea that Billy Boyd was going to be in Macbeth. In fact, I wasn’t even sure it was him up on stage until a middle-aged woman behind me murmured, “Well, that’s Pippin, isn’t it?” I did a double-take. Indeed, beneath that scruffy beard was impish Pippin, funny Billy Boyd. I choked and then, as quietly as I could, freaked out. For the rest of the play, I covered my mouth whenever Billy Boyd showed up. Just in case he saw me in the crowd, I didn’t want him to see my stupid grin.
            The final battle was wild. When I see fight scenes in films, I assume that most of the work is done by stunt doubles. There were no stunt doubles at the Globe. The actors somersaulted and ducked and hit. By the time Macbeth died, I was ready to pick up his axe and do a little fighting myself.
            Then came the jig.
            It’s tradition at the Globe for there to be a jig performed after a tragedy. After all, as my Shakespeare professor put it, you don’t want your audience to be so depressed that they go throw themselves into the Thames. In order to prevent play-induced despair, the actors get up at the end of the play and do a lively jig.
            I was so caught up in the story that I forgot the jig was coming. So when suddenly the dirge at the end of the play turned into a wild and happy tune, I jumped. Then I laughed. Macbeth spun his wife around in circles. Two of the witches danced arm in arm. Now it was the actors onstage as themselves, not as their characters, and they were having the times of their lives.

            I used to dance—ballet, Irish step dancing, character, and modern. Performances were a high for me. My favourite part of being in a performance was the sheer euphoria at the end of a performance, knowing you’d done your part and done it well. The Macbeth cast definitely felt that way. Maybe my vision was colored by my own glee, but each of the actors looked victorious as they took a bow. As they left the stage, Macbeth jumped up and tapped the doorway—some little superstitious move, maybe, or just a way to work out his wild energy.

            I understood that urge completely. I cheered until my throat was sore. Even now, when I think about that play, I bounce in my seat. Macbeth at the Globe was one of the best experiences of my life. If I could see it again every night, I would.

-Kirstin Ethridge