Review: As You Like It and Henry V at the Pop Up Globe

Our Christmas present to each other this year was a day at the Pop Up Globe in Melbourne. Originally, the plan had been to see Around the Globe in 60 Minutes at 11, As You Like It at 2:00 and Henry V at 7:30 – which is a lot of plays, but how often does one get the opportunity to see that much Shakespeare and Shakespeare-adjacent theatre in one sitting? Alas, the Around the Globe show was cancelled at the last minute – but this may have been for the best, because our seats (in the Lower Gallery) were *exceedingly* hard and uncomfortable, and in fact the twinges in my buttocks and lower back kept me awake for quite a bit of last night.

The seating, however, was really my only complaint.

As You Like It was great fun. It was very lively and raunchy, full of music, and they did not miss any opportunities for humour, the naughtier the better. They also did not miss any opportunity to involve the groundlings in the story – in Touchstone’s early speech about the knight who swore by his honour that the pancakes were good and the vegemite was nought, he pointed at said ‘knight’ in the audience, and from then on, he had a constant rivalry with the dishonorable Sir Jarrod. He also had a romance going on with Lady Jane. A woman in the audience became the missing maidservant who had found the girls’ beds un-slept in, and had to answer for their absence, other audience members were singled out to represent other characters or character traits, to be hidden behind, or appealed to, to be the flock of goats, or to illustrate the Jaques’ seven ages of man speech. Any time people of low estate were mentioned, there was a gesture to the groundlings (we in the galleries were the nobility, of course).

Of course, the groundlings also got water squirted at them and paper torn up and thrown at them, and learned to back away FAST whenever the clown was on stage, as he had a tendency to spit ‘teeth’ or to ‘vomit’ water into the audience at every opportunity.

But what was really interesting about this performance was that they made the decision to have all the parts played by men, as they would have been in Shakespeare’s time.

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