As cliches go “school years are the best years of your life” may not be strictly true as , for many, it involves being force fed a diet of classical literature including but not exclusively Shakespeare.
In common with most schools my Alma Mater, Turnbull High School, had , as a constituent part of it’s English curriculum, plenty of compulsory texts including Shakespeare thrown in to “challenge” us.
I guess though that we were fortunate in that we had an English teacher – Tony McNamara- who along with being a certifiable headcase had a passion for his subject that was quite simply infectious.
Mr.McNamara (no way we’d call him Tony) was obviously of Irish stock , loved not only Shakespeare but Irish playwright and Nationalist Sean O’Casey plus he had a worrying devotion to Glasgow Celtic.
Each of these passions he shared liberally with his classes.
He could be a tyrant too and forgetting homework or flunking an assignment usually brought out the worst in him. AS did a Celtic defeat.
After corporal punishment was abolished (which he was a dab hand at) six of the belt was replaced by ritual humiliation.
This usually involved having to lie prostrate in front of his rather large Glasgow Rangers Ibrox Stadium poster begging for his forgiveness.
All while being mercilessly mocked and ridiculed by the rest of the class.
Setting aside Mr.McNamara’s character traits there is one thing that he did and that was to stimulate our imaginations for what can be a rather tedious subject.
Spouting a sonnet or soliloquy in Tudor English really could be hard going and I don’t think I was alone in wondering what all the fuss was about or why we even had to study this stuff.
Glasgow though has a fantastic selection of theaters none more famous than The Citizens and in October 1981 ( I know this because I checked the theater archives) Mr.McNamara played a trump card and got us a field trip to “The Citz” to see Hamlet.
It was as I vividly recall a fantastic night and simply brought Shakespeare to life and given how indelibly it’s etched on my memory it must have been something special.
Or maybe it was sneaking into the bar for a pint of Tenents at the interval? Both maybe.
Occasionally in the intervening years I’ve seen other Shakespeare plays live but since the rebuild of The Globe Theater in London in 1997 I’ve always had a desire to go there and experience a play as it was originally intended.
Luck was on my side and while checking schedules I noticed that during our planned summer trip to the UK there was a season of The Taming of the Shrew.
I couldn’t pass this opportunity up and got everything booked. Then sought permission to go.
A week or so after my birthday myself and Janet flew to London and after a quick hotel stop we had a wander over to St.Paul’s Cathedral. I even went up to the top of the dome despite my extreme unease with heights. This wasn’t on my 50 list but I’ll throw it in anyway.
After a couple of hours at St.Paul’s we simply strolled back across The Millennium Bridge and along The Thames to our hotel for a bit of a break before we then headed back to The Globe.
The Globe sits I am reliably told on a site on or about 250 meters from the original one which closed in 1642. From the outside it certainly looks like how I’d imagine a 17th Century theatre to look. Or maybe not as it had a wine bar and WiFi too.
The dimensions and layout are all open to debate but it’s widely assumed to be a close approximation to the original based on existing plans and historical records and research. Evidence suggests that it was a three-story, open-air amphitheater approximately 100 feet in diameter that could house up to 3,000 spectators.
At the base of the stage, there was an area called the pit where, for a penny, people (the “groundlings”) would stand to watch the performance. Vertically around the yard were three levels of seats, which were more expensive than standing room.
A rectangular stage thrust out into the middle of the open-air yard.
And this is what it looks like.
We had managed to get box seats off to the right of the stage and although not the best view as you can see from the panoramic shot above above the intimacy of the place and the atmosphere created (despite the groundlings getting a bit wet early on) was fantastic.
After a pre-play refreshment we simply settled in and enjoyed the night. I even lashed out an extra couple of quid for cushions.
I’ll not bore you with a scholarly review of The Taming of The Shrew. Lets say it’s a bit controversial in these modern times but in a strange synchronicity the adaption was set against the backdrop of the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland and performed by a Dublin based theater group.
An event I’m sure that Tony McNamara would have held in the highest regard.