A Theatrical Experience

Years ago at school, I had to learn Metal-Work. I was very bad at it, with little aptitude, and even less dexterity. It was taught by a very nice young teacher, Roy Straight, known by all as ‘Straighty’. He put up with my lack of skill, as well as some occasional messing about, and still managed to see me through to the eventual production of a fruit bowl. My Mum treasured that bowl for many years afterwards.

Roy is now retired, actually not that much older than me. He celebrates his 70th birthday today, and I would like to send him my very best wishes, and congratulations on seventy productive years. I received this forwarded e mail recently, about his trip to the Globe Theatre. It is written with style and wit, and has great humour too. I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.

Anthony and Cleopatra  Shakespeare’s Globe  22nd May 2014

Thundery rain had been forecast for the afternoon but things were bright
as I left home for London. The train was running very slowly and the
driver came onto the address system several times to apologise. It
seemed that a freight train had broken down near Ipswich earlier in the
day and all subsequent trains had been affected. The train I was on had
to allow other trains to go past for some reason. The driver had no idea
why the train had to go so slow for part of the journey near
Ingatestone, he had not been told. He apologised again. Eventually we
arrived at Liverpool Street and was pleased to see that someone was
handing out questionnaires so that you could tell the transport managers
how your journey had been. One of the questions did not make any sense
at all to me. I filled the rest out but haven’t posted it.

At Shakespeare’s Globe there was a piece of paper stuck on the wall. It
said that the actor playing Anthony was indisposed and the part would be
read by another actor as they did not have any understudies. He would be
reading from the script which he would carry. I thought that this was
not a promising omen though I have seen someone read a part before and
it was passable. In Anthony and Cleopatra there is a fair bit of hugging
and kissing, trying to convince doing this while also trying to read
from a script and turning the pages often with only one hand free is
very difficult to achieve with any conviction. The actress playing
Cleopatra was a cheerful girl in spite of having an unfamiliar Anthony
and an ankle uncomfortable enough to be strapped and making her limp on
it at times.

The storm started midway through the first half. People in the galleries
notice a movement in the standing area before they notice the rain.
Coats are adjusted and hats put on. Umbrellas go up but they are not
allowed, the stewards rush to them and tell people to put them down
again. There was a school party in the standing area in blue blazers,
boys and girls aged about twelve. They got soaked. Then the thunder came
scaring the schoolchildren and drowning out the play. One clap of
thunder was deafening. The following day a picture was shown in the
newspaper showing the Shard being hit by lightning. I wonder if the loud
clap of thunder was the hit on the Shard which is not that far away.
Cleopatra was beginning to find the setbacks amusing and was protecting
herself by laughing at her misfortune. At one point she had to knock one
of the other actors down. He banged his head on the stage and for his
next few entrances he came on holding his head. This was the first time
I have got wet sitting in one of the galleries at the Globe. The rain
and wind were so strong. The storm subsided as the first half came to a
close. The rain had stopped and a stagehand came out and squeegeed the
water off of the stage.

Towards the end of the interval a ‘dead goat’ was brought onto the stage
and one of Cleopatra’s aides sliced it’s body open and examined the
entrails with considerable interest. He did not reveal what he had seen.
I don’t think I saw him in the second half.

The second half proceeded with more challenges for the script carrying
Anthony. In one scene he is brought in to see Cleopatra after he has
been wounded. Laughter erupted as he came in still carrying the script.
Finally the apse scene. Cleopatra has a glorious gold throne with
beautiful golden birds wings about one and a half metres long sticking
out each side. As her big moment approached one of the wings, with a
bored indifference, slowly folded backwards in the wind. She looked,
laughed, pointed at it and gave an appropriate line. By the end many of
the cast were laughing. They took their curtain call to applause,
Cleopatra applauded everyone including the audience and the twin leads
hugged one another as they left the stage. They did not return for a
second call as usual. What material when they write their memoirs.

Roy Straight (2014)

 

 

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6 thoughts on “A Theatrical Experience

  1. Gosh, thank you so much for sharing this with us, Pete!
    Hug and pats for the four legged star. 🙂 I hope you are all alright? Sorry I missed out on so much.
    BTW, I’m in Cley again as from the middle of the month. Come and see us of you feel like it, you’re more than welcome, all three of you! 🙂
    Dina & Co

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  2. Those of us who live in Las Vegas can attend an outdoor theatre of sorts at the Spring Mountain Ranch State Park in nearby Red Rock Canyon (http://supersummertheatre.org/the-experience/), Among this summer’s offerings are Monty Python’s Spamalot, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Shrek the Musical, and Arsenic and Old Lace. Of course, rain is a rare phenomenon here, so it’s unlikely that a performance would ever be disrupted by the weather. Of course, there is always human error….

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  3. Oh, lordy! I once had to do The Country Wife in similar circumstances at the open air theatre in Holland Park. And guess who was the one who tripped on a hole in the skirt of her voluminous Restoration costume and went splat-smack onto the sodden surface of the stage? You guessed correctly!

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    1. I can only imagine what it must have been like in Elizabethan days, when all performances were dogged with such difficulties. Glad you enjoyed this one from Roy.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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