The Globe – Titus Andronicus


I knew nothing about the play other than it was written by Shakespeare and set in Roman times. Also, my friend, whom I had just spent a lovely afternoon with, had told me that it was awesome.
Walking into the yard, past all that disconcertingly new wood, the stewards tell we shuffling punters that we must be prepared to move at any time. That sounded exciting.
Groups of people were milling about in the yard. Some spoke languages I couldn’t identify. The towering open air stage had been swathed in black fabric. Even the huge marble effect pillars had been shrouded in black. Spidery metal structures rose from the yard and stood twice as tall as the tallest groundling. It was the men in Roman costumes clinging to them that really caught our eyes though. More were on the stage staring glassy eyed out across the crowd.
People jostled as the anticipation grew. The yard and seats filled. I noticed then that first aiders were dotted around the outside of the arena. A man next to me saw what I was looking at before turning back to me and grinning. All around people were gazing around in wonderment and excitement.
Drums sounded from the back of the audience, deep and booming. Talking ceased but all the groundlings continued to look around for the source of the sound.
The metal structures began to move. We all squeezed together to let them past as actors and musicians infiltrated the crowd. A young male actor stood atop the nearest structure and addressed us as the people of Rome.
For the rest of the first act we were squashed and splashed, shouted at and shocked as men in masks with flaming torches charged around us, until a pretty young female character is not only raped but also has her tongue and hands cut off. Moving jerkily, and covered in very realistic looking blood, she shuffles back onto the stage after her violation. Wow, I think, she looks amazing. The male characters swarm around her trying to find out what had befallen her. One implores her to speak and she opens her mouth to let a stream of blood fall to the stage. There is a commotion behind me. People around me stand on tip toes to see what is happening. We gather, with much whispering, that someone has fainted. As we turn our attention back to the action on the stage, there is a similar disturbance at the front of the audience. Someone else had fainted. Guiltily, I thought, that’s pretty cool. Before long, the interval came and I couldn’t believe I’d been standing there for over an hour and a half. My back was quick to remind me of this fact though when I tried to move. Walking stiffly to the bar, I got a pint of Globe Ale (it was actually called that) and went back to loiter in the yard before the second act began.
“Oh my god, coz, yeah, we went there but it was so expensive, yeah.”
“Oh yeah, I remember when we went there and we paid, like, five pound for a pint or something.”
Please God, no, I think, here we go again. Except this time they were young ‘gap yah’ types rather than old people.
“Yeah, yeah, I mean, oh my god, I couldn’t believe how expensive it was in there.”
“Did you go someone else after that drink?”
I slinked away before I let them wind me up and cloud my great evening with misanthropy. As the second act began, we were thrown forward into a crush like a rock concert to make room for the actors and musicians to come barrelling in shouting and playing instruments. This act is much darker than the first as Titus seeks vengeance for what has been done to him and his family. It is intense, powerful and even more shocking than the gruesome acts in the first half. The time flies once again and when the play reaches it horrifying climax I realise that, despite my aching back, I don’t want it to end.
The ending comes, the actors dance and the crowd claps and cheers. I shuffle back out of the theatre in the press of the crowd feeling like I’d witnessed something amazing.
Getting in my car, I thought, Woah, that really was awesome and thank fuck the car wasn’t clamped.

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