Back to the theatre!

I have been to the theatre! Twice! Well, I didn’t travel anywhere the second time, but I was watching a live-streamed performance attended by several hundred people present in the building. My first outing – to which I took a train (this too is news, these days) – was to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Globe, the second, non-outing, was to the Theatre Royal in Bristol to see Touching the Void.

Josh Williams and Angus Yellowlees in Touching the Void (c) Michael WharleyJosh Williams as Joe and Angus Yellowlees as Simon in Touching the Void ©Michael Wharley

It was intriguing watching the latter on screen, something so theatrical that it made me want to be there, in the same room, which nevertheless somehow translated brilliantly to digital mode. Entering the world being constructed before our very eyes by committed actors with the help of director Tom Morris, imaginative set and lighting designers is perfectly possible at one stage (no pun intended) removed. And what a story this is. Joe Simpson’s account of his friend and fellow climber Simon Yates cutting the rope, on which he was dangling from a terrifying peak in the Andes, is retold by playwright David Greig. All the nail-biting tension, the love and anger felt between family and friends, the unflinching addiction to climbing of the mountaineer, the sheer horror of the freezing, precipitous conditions – all are retained in the context of re-enacting the events in, of all places, a Scottish pub. This stunningly daring production is streaming on demand until June 8th.

Nadine Higgin, Sophie Russell, Victoria Elliott, Jacoba Williams in Midsummer Night's Dream-Shakespeare's Globe (c) Tristram Kenton Nadine Higgin, Sophie Russell as Bottom, Victoria Elliott as Titania and Jacoba Williams in A Midsummer Night’s Dream ©Tristram Kenton

No plot surprises, of course, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but under Sean Holmes’ direction at the Globe there are plenty of wild innovations – four Pucks, for a start, often doubling elsewhere. In fact the whole cast – including the band – work tirelessly, but with such joie de vivre their enthusiasm is catching. Carnivalesque streamers, helter-skelter movement (sometimes involving lightning costume changes), lots of dotty humour – Oberon seems to be wearing his gilded throne and Snug the Joiner as Lion enters to “Wimoweh” – this is just the welcome-back party we all need. Attending the Globe feels quite safe, with mingling reduced to an absolute minimum (there is no interval) and only a few seated groundlings in the yard, but, as in most theatres, the capacity is limited for now. In rep until October with live streaming of the performances on June 5th and September 25th.

Go if you can; watch at home if you can’t.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Shakespeare’s Globe

Touching the Void at Bristol Old Vic

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