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London Theatre – Past and Present

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I came across a playbill from our July trip to London… and it got me thinking that we just might have another experience or two worthy of a post. (Yes we DID manage to do more than just hang out at BAFTA!)

Well in advance of our trip, a Canadian friend living in Essex kindly offered to arrange an evening of dinner and theatre together for our single Saturday night in London. Sounded just right!

Before the performance, to get into a theatrical frame of mind, we met near the Tate Gallery and then took a little stroll along the South Bank to glimpse Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

Reconstructed Globe Theatre

Reconstructed Globe Theatre

My friend shared trivia of how the theatre was originally on the other side of the river. At that time called simply ‘The Theatre’, it was built in 1576 and owned by the Burbages. However the land on which it was situated was held on a 21 year lease. Seeing its popularity and disapproving of theatrical productions, the landlord raised the rent to an exorbitant amount on renewal. To which the theatre company responded by dismantling the structure and rebuilding it on the other bank!

And thus the Globe Theatre was born! To be burnt, rebuilt, banned then demolished before being recently reconstructed.

None other than the National Theatre

None other than the National Theatre

Our theatre going feet continued our wanders to enjoy a delightful meal at the Green Room… then the National Theatre of London. Combining three theatres in one, this complex boasts an enviable list of theatrical products, talks & events plus the wonderful Clore learning centre.

Our evening theatrical treat was a restoration piece “The Beaux’ Stratagem” by George Farquhar. Set in Lichfield, Staffordshire, 1707 it was a largely light-hearted romp around class with fops falling on hard times, their aim to solve their plight by marrying for money and strategies to escape an unhappy marriage.

While a more bawdy comedy than the current fashion, given it is from over 300 years ago, it was surprisingly refreshing in its support for divorce, apparently taking its cue from John Milton’s tracts divorce from 1643-45.

The Beaux' Stratagem playbill

The Beaux’ Stratagem playbill

Just a wee reminder of the role theatre can play – past or present – in opening a dialogue on society, choices around the human condition and more.

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  1. TheLastWord says:

    I love going to the theatre. In my view, cinema just cannot match the immediacy, the immersive experience that theatre provides.

    As a matter of interest, do modern playwrights exist? Do people buy plays? When I go to the big book stores, the drama section is miniscule and devoted to Shakesy, with a token copy of ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstein are dead” and maybe a couple of others. It’s all very sad.

    More so, because my “story”, is currently a play with Acts I and II more or less written and Act III about 50% done. I have a feeling it’s going to end up as a novella in the near future.

    Yes, plays have played a great part in bringing about social change or at least starting the social discussion. Shaw, for example, with Major Barbara and Mrs Warren’s Profession, comes immediately to mind. Even Ole Master Will did his part…

    • Couldn’t agree more about theatre having its special quality that recordings – no matter how brilliant – cannot capture.

      As for ‘do people buy plays’ you are asking the wrong person because to me the answer is yes!! My partner just bought a bunch on our trip to Canada, a friend in Toronto also represents playwrights – in fact several of the authors & plays he handles have been licensed for performance in India. For example, Naseer’s “Einstein”.

      However where to find such plays in physical copy or online is a bit specialised. And it isn’t the buying of the play alone.. it is the license to perform that becomes critical. Plus the question of whether adaptation is / is not permitted. Some plays are more effective if adapted to a local context. Others should not be messed with! 😉

      All this in my ever so humble opinion…

      And naturally, to me a really good play will provoke on some level, help you question something you didn’t before, gain new insights, perspectives, understanding and so much more!

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