“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” on stage. Nightmare than that.


LONDON – At the Globe Theater in London, a recent Thursday was a scene that Shakespeare could be associated with: 11 actors swinging around rehearsing on stageA midsummer night’s dreamAs director Shawn Holmes stood underneath her, he looked pissed off.

“Please listen, everyone,” said Holmes. “Can we do the scene again, even if it’s a car accident?”

Everyone stopped joking and took their place. Then Peter Burke, who played the fictional king Oberon, began singing: “Now until the end of the day, every misguided fairy tale has passed through this house.” Soon the rest of the cast took over, and everyone sneaked out of the scenes through two huge doors, becoming quieter and quieter, as if they were trying to lull the spectators to sleep with their song.

Performance was excellent. But Holmes did not appear happy. He said that rehearsal for that day wasn’t about moving on stage, but ensuring that the 11 actors came out, quickly changing outfits in a small behind-the-scenes area, then back, all while staying two meters (about six and a half feet) away) regardless of keeping On social distancing.

If they get it wrong, he will have to do it over and over again, until they find a solution.

“It was the hardest thing,” Holmes said. “I think it finally broke me down today.”

When the coronavirus pandemic spreads Britain’s last theaters closed whatsAnd the Shakespeare’s Globe, As it is officially known, it was perhaps the only institution expected to survive.

It is one of the famous theaters in the world, where supporters around the world are drawn to the idea of ​​modern recreation of Shakespeare’s land stomping on the banks of the Thames, with its thatched roof open to the elements.

In Shakespeare’s time, his Globe was closed again and again when the plague struck London, especially between 1603 and 1613, although the poet continued to write even during the lockdown. If the original Globe survives, then surely their updated version can manage Covid-19?

But within weeks of the Coronavirus hitting Britain, the world is – heavily dependent on tourism (17 percent of its audience are international tourists, many of them Americans) and without the public support that goes to Places like the British National Theater – He was losing 2 million pounds, about 2.8 million dollars a month.

180 IRs and cast that were on her books at the time, some of them in the final days of her rehearsal ‘New Romeo and Juliet’ Neil Constable, the theater’s chief executive, said in a phone interview that it should be abandoned. He also had to take leave of 85 per cent of his permanent employees, which means that the British government paid most of their salaries. Moreover, he canceled a multi-million dollar regeneration project.

Even with these moves, Constable soon had to consider delaying the stage entirely. “We had to close until 2023,” he said.

In May, A. document For British politicians begging for emergency funding. Without her, she said, “we will not be able to survive this crisis.” It would be “a tragedy for the arts, for the legacy of England’s most famous writer, but also for the country”.

The news made headlines, Including the New York Times. A few weeks later, Oliver Dowden, the British Minister of Culture, He went to the globe To advertise $ 2 billion to save arts package. In the end the government gave almost the stage 6 million pounds sterlingAbout $ 8.5 million of that money.

That didn’t stop the need for more cost savings, Constable said. Employees have reduced their salaries by up to 50%.

But the rescue money means one thing: The theater could finally reopen this month, if only for a socially distant audience of 400, instead of the average 1,600. Audience members will also not be permitted to become “landlords,” which is the term for people who stand in the pit below a stage, like ordinary people. Instead, they had to sit in shiny outdoor metal chairs.

“It doesn’t make sense to do it financially, but it is important,” Constable said. “This is what we are here for.” He expressed his hope that British tourists would make up for the shortage of international visitors.

At the rehearsal, Holmes – who is also Globe’s assistant artistic director – said the theater decided to reopen with its revival of its 2019 production of “Midsummer” precisely because it was cheaper than making a new show.

He said the social distancing on stage was also as much for financial reasons as it was for health reasons. According to British government rules, if a person falls ill in theater, everyone who has had close contact with them should also be isolated, so segregation of people prevents this. “We have to protect the show,” he said, adding that it would be “incredibly financially damaging” if they had to withdraw it.

A play about the mistaken lovers turned out to be surprisingly easy in an age of distancing. There is passion and extremism in language, Holmes said, so you don’t need the same amount of physical work.

He still has to make some changes. In one scene, four theatrical fans sleep in the woods. Holmes said they did in 2019 “stacked on top of each other”. Now, all of them have got a corner of the stage for themselves (one lover, Lysander, gets a blowing mattress at some point, much to the annoyance of his sweetheart Hermia).

The biggest challenges included keeping people out of the scenes. At some point in the rehearsal, Holmes goes through a scene where the actors run across the stage – all playing Fairy Buck – and then shoot their arrows at each other. Shona Papayemi remained missing.

Is there a reason you are always late? Holmes asked. Papayimi replied, “There were seven and eight people on the way.” “Oh my God,” Holmes said. “Sorry!”

Last Wednesday night, Holmes and the cast returned to the Globe for their first performance in 14 months.

The mood in the outlines was ecstatic, although London was cool and damp even by British summer standards. There were groups of drama students waiting to enter, as well as a hunting association and a mother and daughter celebrating their birthday.

None of them were foreign tourists, but many of those in attendance said they traveled more than an hour to get there, suggesting that Globe may not have to worry much about attracting people from outside London.

“I’ve already got six tickets for this year,” said Peter Lloyd, 61, who traveled from Brighton on the south coast of England. He added, “It is the only authentic Elizabethan theater in the country, and he feels very close to Shakespeare’s time.” Was he okay to walk away in plays? “Oh, I didn’t know about that,” he said anxiously. “Do they also wear masks?”

Inside, the eager atmosphere did not subside, with Holmes’ help Carnival play – With Day-Glo costumes and a band playing virtually Mardi Gras style music. At one point, Titania, the fictional Queen, got in and out of the audience on a motorcycle (the actors pulled masks sewn into their costumes when off stage). Even a seemingly flustered member of the audience was screwed into the play, made to read lines and ride an exercise bike (it helped run the production), resulting in his partner’s apparent amusement.

On the few occasions that the rules of the coronavirus stormed the show, the cast played laughter. When two characters had to stab themselves with the same knife, the actor playing the flute pulled a disinfectant handkerchief from his sock, then cleaned the blade, before plunging it into his chest.

The play ran without interruption – another attempt to minimize the risks – but few people were left to use the bathroom or buy a drink. When it was over, to cheer, about 30 members of the audience stayed behind, forming a polite line to take selfies on the slope leading to the stage.

Holmes stood nearby, watching. He looked just as upset as during rehearsals. “This is clearly just my relaxed face,” he said with a laugh.

“It’s amazing that we are back and people are hungry for that,” he added. “We cannot maintain this level of audience by any means,” he said of the stage being only a quarter full, “but I feel optimistic.”

Then, without the frown disappearing, he headed towards the crew, to see if the distance had worked as planned, after all.

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