The actors are come hither, my lord! An exact replica of the second Globe Theatre, Shakespeare’s Jacobean playhouse, has sprung up in the shadow of the SCG (Sydney Cricket Ground). The air around the slightly otherworldly circular building crackles with excitement. This year the players are performing four shows in rep: The Comedy of Errors, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Merchant of Venice.
The Pop-Up Globe opened in Auckland, NZ in 2016 and sold 100,000 tickets in its first season. If the cheapest tickets are $30 each, that’s a lot of ducats. In the program notes, Tim Fitzpatrick of the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies at USYD writes that as they can change the design of the building each time they erect it, the building will never be hampered by ‘iconic status’ or itself become ‘a constraint on innovative research’. Interesting. Dynamic because ephemeral.
David Lawrence, Head of Research and Enrichment, claims this means they don’t live in fear of their life’s work being invalidated by the next round of Thames-side archaeological excavation. You can feel the enthusiasm dripping from the program, almost like they can’t believe their luck.
David writes that as there isn’t much information about the design of the interior of the original theatre, they have adopted a policy of embracing exploration. If something is mentioned in a primary source, they give it a try! See how it works and adopt it or drop it next time around. Fun!
To the plot of The Comedy of Errors: Deep breath! Egeon of Ephesus’ head is on the chopping block for illegally entering Syracuse. He tells the Duke of Ephesus his tale: A long time ago during a storm at sea he was separated from his wife Emilia. In this storm his identical twin sons (he helpfully called both of them Antipholus), and their identical twin servants were also separated.
Egeon sent one master and servant pair to search for their brothers. No one came back. In the present, what Egeon doesn’t know is that Antipholus and Dromio of Ephesus have also recently entered the city, which has become the home of Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse. Let the games begin!
If that was too long winded: This is a funny play about long lost identical twins. It’s one of Shakespeare’s earlier plays (1594) and his shortest. It’s a farcical comedy with lots of slapstick humour and word play. At its emotional centre, as director Miles Gregory notes, is the slow reveal of a promised happy ending. Absolutely fun for the whole family, although with some racier moments perhaps not suited, as they suggest, for under 10s.
The tickets range from $29.52 – $162.97. The cheaper tickets rendering you a ‘groundling’, meaning you stand in the pit directly in front of the actors during the two hours traffic of the stage. Many report that these tickets offer the superior experience and are definitely the place to be if you love audience interaction, and don’t mind be splattered with blood (which you will be assured washes out). Warning: if you are sensitive about your hair loss, or are shyly hirsute, move to the back.
There is lots of extemporizing and interjecting of modern language to make the word play more accessible to a modern audience. That said, the passage in which Dromio describes Nell as spherical such that he is able to find out ‘countries in her’ was delivered in the Elizabethan and came through crystal clear.
It was a real highlight. Ireland was located in her buttocks as he found it out ‘by the bogs’. The Dromios (Blake Kubena and Ryan Bennett) give impressive high energy performances throughout and have the audience eating from their palms.
The costumes are dazzling and lavish. Chantelle Gerrard, Head of Wardrobe, writes that the department swelled to its maximum size of 25 during the second season and has settled to 20 in 2018. This is no surprise; just when you think you’ve seen it all, 10+ whirling dervishes come sweeping onto the stage in Pinch’s wake. Bob Capocci, costume designer, describes her excitement in the notes at hearing ‘the creak of leather shoes, the whisper of a skirt on the stage or the clang of armour as it crashes past you.’
The lighting of the evening performances has been designed in order to fully illuminate the stage and the groundlings, to give the illusion of natural light, as the original performances took place during the day: The brightly lit groundlings really are part of show. The lighting and the circular nature of the seating make the Pop-Up Globe a place to see and be seen.
This is a company that is eager to excite and engage you, and they are very likely to succeed. At the core of all the sound and fury is the chance to jump in a time machine and experience something magical.
The Comedy of Errors
Pop Up Globe, Sydney Entertainment Quarter, Moore Park
Performance: Saturday 8 September 2018 – 8.00pm
Season continues to 4 November 2018
Information and Bookings: www.popupglobe.com.au
Image: The Comedy of Errors – courtesy of Pop Up Globe
Review: Oliver Wakelin