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A Welcome Pop Up

February 15, 2018

The Pop-Up Globe has returned to Auckland for another summer season!

The Pop-Up Globe is a temporary replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.  It’s called “pop up” because they can take it down and it can pop up anywhere there’s room.  For the third year in a row, they are doing a short summer season of four plays.  Once you figure out how to get in . . .

 . . . You can check out the theatre.  It’s made of scaffolding, plywood and corrugated iron and it’s an amazingly good copy.

They have a nice outdoor area where you can relax before the show and during the intermission.

Everything is very informal and once you get inside, you can wander around and check things out.

Here are the (very brave) groundlings:

Stage set for the Merchant of Venice

Stage set for Macbeth

What the actors see if they look up:

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s not the best place to see a play because of acoustic and visual issues, but the atmosphere is great and the performances are always very good and a lot of fun.

A couple of weeks ago we saw The Merchant of Venice and last night we saw Macbeth.

One of the things we like about the performances is that they are always unique.  Sometimes they take creative liberties with the plays, like setting them in the contemporary South Pacific.  Others are relatively traditional.  The Merchant of Venice had an all-male cast, harking back to Elizabethan times when women couldn’t appear on stage.

Last night’s Macbeth was great.  The setting was medieval Scotland with armor and shields and swords, and there were no major departures from the script.  And they made the show very interesting.

Unlike most theatres where they tell you to turn off your cell phones, here they tell you to turn off your phone unless you want to take pictures.  And I did.

There was a trap door in the stage that became a convenient place for unceremoniously dumping bodies, such as Banquo’s.

It’s also where the fantastically weird witches emerged from.

And the cauldron scene was great.

But this was Shakespeare in Auckland in summer, so you just knew that it wasn’t going to be totally traditional and predictable.  For example, there was this sign at the groundlings’ entrance.

And believe me, they weren’t kidding!  After all, the play was Macbeth.  There was a lot of blood, and it was as if the actors took a particular glee in using the entire stage for a fight and then moving over to the edge of the stage to deliver the death blow, complete with spatter into the audience.    They regularly had extras crawling around on the stage with rags wiping up pools of fake blood.

But Tom, I hear you asking, what do they mean by “other fluids?”  I’ll tell you.

At the end of the scene in which Macbeth kills Duncan, the king, he is having a meltdown and as Lady Macbeth leads him to bed, someone knocks at the gates.  Macbeth yells, “Wake Duncan with thy knocking.  I would that thou could.”

The next scene features a hung over old man answering the door.  When you studied Macbeth in school (I know you did) your teacher told you that the scene is purposely light to give the audience some relief from the emotional strain of the murder scene.

The actual dialogue in the play is light enough, but last night they took it up a few notches.  When the old guy comes out, he’s talking about someone knocking at the door and starts telling the audience these horrid knock knock jokes.  For example:

Knock knock (he says).

Who’s there? (the audience yells).


Shelly who?

Shelly compare thee to a summer’s day?


Knock knock

Who’s there?


Toby who?

Toby or not Toby.

You get the idea.

So the old guy finally answers the door and is talking to the men who have come.  They ask what took him so long and he tells them they had a big party because the King is there and everyone drank too much.  They tell him they can tell he had a few and he starts explaining the effect drinking has on him, from sexual performance to making him have to pee.

He then goes up to one of the pillars supporting the stage roof  and reaches into his robes and starts to pee.  He says “Ahh, was afraid I’d get stage fright.”  He then turns around and walks to the edge of the stage.  He reached into his robes again and says, “Oh, I’m not done.”  And that’s when we knew what they meant by “other fluids.”  It was hilarious to watch the groundlings running backwards to get out of the way.  And if you thought they moved fast then, you should have seen what happened when he made it look like he was about to get sick.

Definitely lightened things up.

But back to the play, most of what flew off the stage was blood.  The acting was great and the people playing Macbeth and Lady Macbeth did a great job of showing their emotional disintegration as the weight of their actions started to get to them.

They also did something really cool during the intermission.  When the play started, it was still light outside, but by the intermission it had gotten dark.  In keeping with the Macbeth motif, they used this lighting effect to cover the outside of the theatre in blood!

It was an interesting and entertaining evening and one of the most surprising things is how timely the play seemed to be.   Although you (generally) don’t have heads of state whacking people left, right and center, the way the witches altered the course of history with their suggestions was a scary reminder of how modern governments are affected by outside influences.  Double, double, toil and trouble!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 16, 2018 1:08 pm

    I rarely am sorry to have missed an “innovative” Shakespeare production, but that sounds like a rip. The “knock, knock, knock” speech is a comic favorite of mine – you have to work hard to fuck it up — but that’s dead brilliant.

    If you ever read graphic novels, by the way, there’s a terrific riff on it in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. Just by the by.

  2. February 19, 2018 4:30 am

    How very cool.

  3. February 20, 2018 2:29 pm

    I love the pop-up theatre. A couple of years ago we saw Romeo and Juliet on a beautiful summers evening. Magical indeed, but no blood or other fluids flowing from the stage.

  4. March 5, 2018 3:33 pm

    This looks great. When I was in England I only saw the original from the outside. I’d love to see this one.

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