Did you know you can see a play at Shakespeare’s Globe for £5? Perhaps not – it seems to me to be one of London’s best septs secrets.
The other evening, an old friend and I got together to take full advantage of this, and saw the Merry Wives of Windsor. It was cheeky and saucy and wonderfully lighthearted – we spent most of the night looking like Bryony Hannah (of Call the Midwife fame).
My friend loved Doctor Cauis, who played the caricature of a Frenchman with his repeated utterance of ‘By Gaaar’ – By God, which, despite being accompanied by his drawing of a cross across his chest each time, sounded more and more like ‘bugger’ as the chaos of the play ensued, much to our amusement.
I, on the other hand, was utterly enthralled by Sir John Falstaff himself – the source of a large proportion of the play’s drama. Fitted out with a potly pillow belly, silk dressing gowns and odd socks, Pearce Quigley did an incredible job of portraying the hard-up Falstaff. I particularly loved the unmistakablely Iago-like quality he possessed in his ability to imply to the audience that he knew he was in a play. His feigned astonishment when the Mistress Page and Mistress Ford revealed their plot tickled everyone, as did his hilariously exaggerated attempts to woo the women whose money he desired. He was, however, so good an actor that I actually felt really sorry for Falstaff, when he sat on the steps at the front of the stage before me, with his head in his hands as he realised the extent of his deception.
The show was also, importantly, an incredibly empowering experience. Young Anne Page – wanted in marriage by three characters in the play – being able to determine whom she married by outwitting her parents and the men after her affections was a positive reinforcement of the message that women can use their intelligence to ensure self-determination.
Mistresses Page and Ford were, crucially, not presented as deceivers in a negative light; rather, their deception of the lascivious and foolish Falstaff constituted the driving force behind the play, and their camaraderie was captivating.
Since standing tickets are only £5, I think it’s worth taking a chance and seeing a less well-known play such as this one, even if you aren’t sure you’ll like it. Having said that, I’ve never been disappointed by a play at the Globe, and my friend said the exact same.
As well as the Merry Wives of Windsor, I’ve seen King Lear, All’s Well That Ends Well and Edward II – all for £30, thanks to standing tickets only costing £5 in the summer and £10 in the winter, with the venue being inside at the Sam Wanamaker theatre in the adjacent street to the Globe Theatre. Considering that for £30 you can usually only get a seat right at the back at any other London show, I think being able to see four plays for the price of one is pretty good! Plus, if you arrive around an hour early you can get a spot right at the front with what I believe to be the best view in the house – so long as you don’t mind the chance of some audience participation!
Even better, standing tickets rarely sell out as there is a capacity for 700 in the yard, so you can be a bit last minute if you don’t mind standing. Hence, a play at the Globe is a perfect option if you have a spare evening to yourself or make spontaneous plans to meet up with friends but don’t know what to do! For less than the cost of a pint in the capital, you could enjoy an evening of Shakespeare (although be reassured that there is in fact on site bar which appeared to sell Pimms and beer…).
If you do plan on going to see the Merry Wives of Windsor, I would recommend reading a quick summary of Acts I-III beforehand, as I personally found the first half of the play a bit tricky to follow; there are two separate storylines to follow and it’s pretty fast-paced as a result! Maybe don’t read a summary of the second half, though, as I found that slightly easier to follow and it’s always nice not to spoil the ending – and that is especially true of this play.
If you can’t make it to the Globe before 12th October, you might be able to catch the Merry Wives of Windsor’s live screening which is taking place at 7:20pm on the 20th June in various cinemas across the country – find out where here. Wherever you see it, I can guarantee you will feel like this after!