It's a good time to be reminded that Shakespeare, who dramatised the wars between Lancaster (Leave, in 2016) and York (Remain), doesn't have to carry the whole weight of Brexiters' expectations: he didn't work in a vacuum. For example, doomed resentment, so palpable in the photograph above, drives the anti-hero of The Tragedy of Sir John Van Olden Barnavelt by John Fletcher and Philip Massinger. Performed on 18 November in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, this is one of some 400 early modern plays which Shakespeare's Globe's Read Not Dead team brings to life.
Meanwhile the A4 printed scripts take on a life of their own. Can you memorise the odd line and look up - a risk which Tim Frances, triumphant in the title role, got away with? Is there a stray line you've forgotten to highlight? And what about props? With all the page-turning, you can end up waving a pistol like a biro in your spare hand.
The absence of stage blood - the obvious artifice of which cauterises emotion, to my mind - was another dramatic advantage. (Don't tell me, some people faint at the sight of the fake stuff, I know.)
I was however able to watch the stylised, slow-motion beheading (for treason) of Sir John: the sword, safely away from his bowed head, preserved tension while severing his connection with the audience so that he could leave the stage, job done.
|Portrait by Michiel Jansz van Mierevelt|
For an image to represent the canon of early modern plays waiting to be aired, I give you the chewing gum patches on the Millennium Bridge outside the Globe. These are regularly embellished by Ben Wilson, the Chewing Gum Artist. As one painted patch fades with the passage of years and footprints, he illuminates another, depicting lives of passers-by from around the world. If you see Ben at work, talk to him for the sake of his humane philosophy.