Now that I’ve been there, I realise it would be a waste to visit London without seeing a play performed at the Globe. Even on a backpacker’s budget I’m sure one can afford 5 pounds to stand with the rabble surrounding the stage instead of paying up to 37.50 for the seats with the least obstructed views. I had one of perhaps the absolute best seats in the house purely by chance—all because Goran and I tried to buy tickets several hours before show time for Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus (during its first run ever at the Globe). But they were sold out.
They recommended that we come back at 5:30 to line up for Returns: the seats that become available when people cancel by phone or in person. We went to the Tate museum to kill time and spent all our time flipping through art books in the bookstore. (Magritte is awesome btw. Not just his non-pipe!)
We lined up at 5—the first ones there—because we’re keeners that way. And lo and behold at 5:30 with a hefty line behind us, we were offered two of the most expensive tickets seated together. Two others were available for the same price but in different places.
I was determined to see Doctor Faustus, so what the hell?
We didn’t want to risk missing the play by holding out for cheaper tickets, so we handed over the bones and went for dinner. By the time we wandered back at 6:15, the two women who had been directly behind us in line were still there. They must have passed over several sets of tickets, because some people were missing from the line behind them. Goran and I were satisfied with our decision—in a Schadenfraude kind of way.
We saw cushions and blankets offered for rental, but we opted to take whatever the theatre had to offer us and were delighted when we found that we had seats in the lower bowl (behind the standing peasants, but high enough to see over them). We were also right against the back wall, so we were some of the few lucky nobles to have a backrest.
The corner of the upper balconies were not able to see everything that took place, but they had chairs, so they were higher class than us. Privileged whelps…
The production itself was excellent. I do feel that Act 4 drags, but I had that experience when I read the play, so I don’t fault the actors and directors for something that I can blame on Marlowe. Otherwise, I was greatly impressed. The musicians on the balcony were wonderful, and the production made great use of the trap doors to summon spirits and pull objects out of hell. Faustus (Paul Hilton) was good, Mephistopheles (Arthur Darvill—Rory on Doctor Who) was better, and Robin (Pearce Quigley) delivered best comedic stage performance I have ever seen. Ever. The calibre of actors in England really is a cut above. Robin delivered his lines with an ease I did not even know was possible. His partner in crime, Dick (Richard Clews—who had a … um … member of the same name bulging down the side of his pants), was a dead-ringer for Baldrick from Black Adder, and the two of them pulled off a comic sub-plot that rivalled the main action.
The play even had the traditional Renaissance encore of a jig, with Faustus and Mephistopheles suddenly in new comedic roles playing lutes and dancing about with a chorus of skeletons in hell.
The only drawback for me was that I was sitting next to two women who were taking notes about the performance to give suggestions to the cast later. So every time they wrote something down or sighed with exasperation, my attention was drawn to whatever defect had just occurred. But there were not many.
Definitely worthwhile and completely affordable if you don’t mind standing for 2 hours and 44 minutes. And potentially being splashed with water.