Sunday, July 29, 2012

All the World's a Stage

What makes one watch a play while standing underneath dark clouds that sneeze showers of rain and blow winds that can only make the sick weaker?  What about this form of entertainment beats sitting in a fancy theatre in one’s best-dressed attire?  The answer is that we simply want to live as the citizens of London did during the Elizabethan era.

William Shakespeare’s plays were special.  Each play has a pulse of its own and was written with the purpose to touch and become one with its audience.  His plays were not just stories, but representations of current events as well as life as we know it.  This era when Shakespeare existed was so epic and unique to performance culture that it is only right we replicate the past and try to live in it through experiences at the Globe.  After all, all the world’s a stage and we are merely actors in it.

The Criterion Theatre in West End, London, home of ‘The 39 Steps’ offers a different experience from that of the Globe.  The architecture and Victorian design of the theatre displays its beauty and elegance so finely that one can feel like a welcomed guest to a palace.  The audience seats comfortably in velvet red cushioned seats made to relax in and enjoy the show to be presented forward.  The theatre is like a hidden gem as transformation occurs the moment one walks through the doorway that separates the populated streets of Piccadilly Circus and the sophistication of theatric entertainment.  To further focus one’s attention, the light in the audience is blackened while the remaining lights spotlight on stage to clearly state that it is show time.  The experience at the Criterion Theatre is the essence of a night out at the theatre.

On the other hand, the Globe does not necessarily provide the refined experience received at the Criterion, but rather transports its guests to the Elizabethan era.  When originally built, the venue was meant to fit thousands of people and still depict social class.  Therefore, seats are space conscious with benches that do not offer much comfort.  Also, the Globe’s seating arrangement builds up and surrounds the stage.  The higher one sat, the wealthier they were.  Contrastingly, there is an unroofed pit in front of the risen stage for the poor to stand for the whole duration of the play.  Social class and wealth was not this obviously represented in the Criterion.  Unlike the Criterion, the Globe has seating that extends to the very end of an actor’s peripheral vision on stage.  Due to this set up, actors seemed to have to work the stage more particularly.  In addition, there are no curtains nor is there a roof in the Globe.  The Globe lacks the help from lights to focus the audience’s attention.  Furthermore, the effects like spotlights and random sounds are not available in such a theatre unlike the Criterion.

Overall, the Criterion Theatre and the Globe offer completely different experiences.  Both offer incredible entertainment, but under the influence of different time eras.  Also, the audience’s comfort differs greatly between the two theatres.  Essentially, each is a worthwhile experience as they both offer expertise in performance, though one requires a little more role-play from its audience as well.

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