Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Julius Caesar at the Old Globe: From High Expectation to Flop


     Monday evening we went to see the highly touted play.  We had pretty high expectations since, after all it was the rebuilt Old Globe, a Shakespeare Play and supposedly the best actors available. We waited in a pretty long line, went through the gate where we showed our tickets and then into another line.  While in that second line, two actors came out and did a puppet show for us.  We were standing right in front of it and got the full brunt of the powerful voices those actors projected.  The puppet show was lively, entertaining and humorous. 
When on line, the reserved seats were not available.  My only option was to buy a standing ticket.  I had not realized that the play was long, i.e. three and one half hours.  That is a long time to be standing. When they opened up the theater to enter, we decided to go to the back of the standing area and have the wall to lean on in case we got tired later.  As people began entering, it was apparent that the standing area was going to be fairly full as it did sell out later.   
  The play began and it became readily apparent that it was going to be difficult to follow.  That was for several reasons: my unfamiliarity with the details of the plot, the british accent and surprisingly the acoustics.  According to the tour that we took before,  the theater was designed to have acoustics that enable everyone to hear well.   My experience was different.  Perhaps it was where we were standing, towards the back of the floor area.  Unless the actors were facing my direction, their voices were hard to hear.   Near the beginning of the play, they rolled a large wooden box and placed it tight in front of where we were standing.  That would have been fine but an actress got on top of the box and blocked our view for part of the first act. 
Overall, the acting seemed uninspiring.  Perhaps they were having an off night.  This was particularly noticeable when the actor playing Julius Caesar entered the stage.   He did not project a powerful presence but instead a quite muted one.   “Is this really Julius Caesar?” was my thought when he entered.   The other actors seemed uninspiring as well.  As the play progressed, my thoughts were increasingly about whether to stay or just leave before the play was over.  Clearly it was not enjoyable.  Can this truly be happening to me?   This was supposed to be the pinnacle of the play experience.   The more the play dragged on, the answer was yes, this play is becoming not worth watching!  The one exception was the death scene where Caesar was stabbed.  This got our attention as well as it should have.   Even after that, the acting did not grab us in the way we were expecting.  after intermission, noticeable numbers of people were gone from the standing area.   They must have been having the same experience we were and took that opportunity to leave.   I kept hoping it was going to improve but shortly after intermission, decided to leave.   When exiting the gate outside, the gate person asked “leaving?” as if surprised that anyone would think of doing that.

Actually, the best part of the evening’s performance was the puppet show at the beginning.   The lesson learned through all this is to not believe the hype.  Whenever expectations are high, it’s best to remain cautiously skeptical.    It is so easy to let expectations soar in situations like this.   Apparently we were caught up in that.   This should have been a memorable performance.  Even though this was the real Globe, a Shakespeare play and presumably the best actors in London, it’s always good to remember that they are only human and susceptible to ups and downs like the rest of us.    

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