Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Old Haunts: 946 at The Globe

This weekend Rich's Mum visited for her birthday and, as a treat, bought us all tickets to see a play at Shakespeare's Globe.

The Globe is one of my favourite places in London. I see at least one play a year there and often go to visit the box office in person so that I can have a nosey in the shop or yet another stroll around the exhibition. The tall wrought iron gates, the names carved in the paving stones and the scent of the woodwork is familiar and comfortable for me. Last year, I visited the candlelit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse for Simon Armitage's magical reading of his Death of King Arthur.

This trip to the Globe was just that little bit more wonderful than usual because London isn't my home anymore. I admit I felt a pang of regret about that when I saw that there was a lecture on about the added and missing scenes of Macbeth this week (it's on Thursday - please go and tell me all about it!).

This time, I saw not a Shakespeare or contemporary play, but the latest Michael Morpurgo adaptation - 946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tipps by Kneehigh. I love Morpurgo adaptations - I saw War Horse a few years ago and it's every bit as affecting as the reviews said. Then a friend and I sat in floods of tears over the one-man-show Private Peaceful.

946 is very different to the previous shows I've seen, which have been quietly affecting. This show brims with exuberance - from the live band urging the audience to sing along, to the dancing, the puppetry (my favourites were, of course, the sheep) and the sheer joy emanating from the cast who are clearly having a whale of a time.

But behind all of this fun and laughter - and it is a really funny show - is the tragic true story of what happened at Slapton Sands in the run up to the D-Day Landings.

If you'd like to avoid spoilers - for the book or the play - look away now!

Due to poor communication, poor planning - poor everything, frankly - Operation Tiger, a rehearsal for the landings, ended up in a bloodbath that saw 946 soldiers killed. You can read more about it here.

This is what I love about Morpurgo's work - he doesn't shy away from the darkness, he doesn't sugar coat things for children. His work is sensitive, thoughtful and trusts that children can hand unpleasant truths.

The cheerfulness of the production only intensified the tragedy when it happened and I admit that I did cry a little bit. It's a truly family-friendly production though, leading to lots of discussion no matter how old you are - something that I think is the very best thing about theatre.

(Pssst! You can come back now - no more spoilers from here on in!)

Strolling through the London evening, with the Globe lit up like a welcoming hearth fire on a chilly evening; St Paul's cool dome, gradually dwarfed by the every increasing buildings around it; the gleam of light on undulating water; the motley collection of bridges. All these things are home to me and it is a strange distinction - visiting home rather than coming home.

I will be back, perhaps not as frequently, sadly not euphorically clutching last minute tickets, but there is something to be said for anticipation and the sweet moment when you step through those heavy wooden doors, the great wooden O opening up before you.

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