Last week I attended a performance of Antony and Cleopatra at the Globe Theater in London with actors Eve Best and Clive Wood playing the lead roles. It was during this Sunday matinee performance that Shakespeare’s quote finally rang true for me.
“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.”
– William Shakespeare
The actors at the Globe take these lines very seriously when performing their regular seasonal shows and because of the unique setting of this open-air theater, they have the opportunity to completely interact with their surroundings. In other words: fourth wall, schmourth wall! Forget about the space that separates the performer from the audience; the audience and pretty much anything in the world can be pulled into the performance.
A perfect example of this was provided by our wonderful tour guide. He mentioned that planes will frequently fly over the Globe, creating some additional noise and distraction from the scene. If they are lucky enough to be in a performance of Winter’s Tale, an actor may gesture to the plane, for example, and quote “With heigh! the sweet birds, O, how they sing!”
Planes will frequently fly over the Globe, creating some additional noise and distraction from the scene. If the performers are lucky enough to be in a performance of Winter’s Tale, an actor may gesture to the plane, for example, and quote “With heigh! the sweet birds, O, how they sing!”
However, in our performance, something much more unexpected happened. Eve Best, the actress playing Cleopatra, gestured to a man in the audience standing next to the stage. When he continued to interact with her, she got very excited and drew nearer and nearer until their hands were touching. Then, out of nowhere, she kissed him! Completely in Cleopatra’s character but entirely unplanned. The audience and actors roared with laughter and from that moment on, the high energy of the room never faltered.
Afterwards, some of the audience member’s friends approached him about the situation. He laughed and plainly said, “That’s exactly why I do the standing room tickets. You never know what will happen here.”
So there you have it! If you want a truly unforgettable theatrical experience in London, make sure you visit the Globe and get their £5 standing room tickets. You never know when you, too, will become part of the performance!