One of the highlights of my study abroad experience in London, UK that I have been anticipating since Dr. Storm told us to book our tickets, was the chance to see a Shakespeare play at the Globe Theatre. I kept thinking, “How wonderful it will be for an English major to be in one of the most iconic theatres in history.” With this summer being the “Summer of Love” for the theatre, multiple romances would be performed; during our week in London, we were able to experience the classic Romeo and Juliet. Standing for three hours in the yard, I thought, would be more than worth it, even with stiff legs. I was more than ecstatic to be able to be in the theatre that I have learned about in my Shakespeare class and have seen in video clips.
Though I thought I learned enough about the Globe to prepare me for the performance I was going to witness, I was taken back by many elements of this version of Romeo and Juliet. All of the clips shown in my Shakespeare class were of classic performances; the costumes, the language, setting, etc. kept true to Shakespeare’s script, and what one would expect to see at the Globe. The Globe had recently hired a new director that put a modern spin on the classic play we know and love.
The characters were dressed in mostly black outfits, and their makeup consisted of mostly a white-out face with dramatic eye shadows, lipsticks, etc.; almost clown-like, except for Romeo and Juliet: their makeup resembled skulls. From the beginning with the prologue it felt as if it were to be a more eerie, dark performance than one would expect. A chorus was added to the play, which is not featured in the original script. They danced provocatively to modern music throughout the beginning, and during the masquerade party, which the director visioned instead a modern costume party.
At this point in the show, I was feeling, though I didn’t want to, disappointed. This was one of my goals as a traveler I wanted to experience, and it was not what I was expecting at all. When the balcony scene came along, it gave me more hope for the rest of the show. It was funny, witty, and revealed aspects of the characters that I had never thought they would possess. The way Juliet delivered her lines really did make her appear that she was thirteen years old, and the play overall displayed how immature the relationship between Romeo and Juliet actually was.
The second act, just as eccentric as the first, brought me to tears despite how ridiculous Romeo and Juliet’s plan was to be together after meeting about four days before. The emotion portrayed by the Montagues and the Capulets after the “deaths” of their children was quite chilling and overwhelming. I began to reflect on how it must feel for a family to lose their own child, which at that point made my tears seem hysterical. As Romeo and Juliet lie in the tomb together, the chorus began to sing in harmony together as the couple was put to rest. I did not expect to feel such emotions when the performance began and my disappointment vanished altogether.
It occurred to me that I had too many expectations for this performance: I wanted it to be like what I’ve seen on YouTube and what it might have been like in Shakespeare’s day. Reflecting on this modern interpretation, I simply had to remember that it was an interpretation. Many of Shakespeare’s plays have been turned into modern movies, such as the movie “She’s the Man”, which is based off of Twelfth Night. As mentioned before, this modern interpretation of Romeo and Juliet brought things to my attention that other interpretations, and even the script, cannot fully display unless it is performed in a certain way; the immaturity of the relationship, how young the characters actually are, despite their attempt to seem older and mature because of their love for each other.
Even the costuming and makeup seemed to have a symbolic significance. The choice to wear all black instead of traditional costume brought the presence of death and love fading to the surface. The makeup, which was clown-like for most, symbolized the adults’ immaturity and foolishness for their hatred toward each other. Romeo and Juliet’s skull makeup represented their young death.
Overall, I enjoyed this performance. I enjoyed being in the theatre itself and experiencing the culture that it has brought and maintained. I loved being at this beautiful, unique theatre with friends I have made on my study abroad experience, which is something that I valued most of all on this excursion to the Globe. One thing that I remembered in my theatre appreciation class was to suspend all judgment of the performance, which I failed to do at the beginning. My advice for attending the Globe, or any theatre and performance at that, is to simply enjoy it. Enjoy and appreciate the play, the actors, the theatre, and the people around you.