Pop-up Globe: Much Ado About Nothing

Pop-up Globe is the world’s first full-scale temporary working replica of one of the greatest theatres in history, the second Globe. The second Globe is the theatre that Shakespeare and his company built and opened back in 1614 after the first original Globe theatre burnt down. As a replica has been established in Melbourne, I decided to check Pop-up Globe out to see what it was all about.

Pop-up Globe is a circular theatre with an open-air roof. There are no microphones or speakers as actors on stage are to project their voice just like they did back in 1614. Night and day, rain or shine, the show must go on regardless, staging an authentic experience like you would have had if you were alive during Shakespeare’s time. There are 4 different Shakespeare plays that you have a choice of seeing; riotous comedy As You Like It, romantic-comedy Much Ado About Nothing, psychological thriller Othello and the bloody war epic Henry V. Despite there being 4 different plays, there are actually 2 different casts that do a comedy and serious play each. I can’t even imagine how difficult it would be to memorise 2 different plays and perform them at alternating sessions. I decided to go with Much Ado About Nothing as it sounded lighthearted and fun.

I had purchased Groundlings section tickets which are standing room only tickets as they were the cheapest option and I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. Turns out, my decision to purchase Groundlings tickets was the best option. Upon entering the theatre, I was relieved to find that the floor was carpeted. If you’re going to be standing for over 2 hours, you’d want your feet to be as comfortable as possible. I had worn boots in preparation for this, but the carpeted floors were a godsend. The cast make full use of the theatre that you find yourself turning around and moving about a lot. Because of this, you cannot sit on the floor or leave any of your bags or belongings on the floor. Which is fine, if you’ve already committed to stand for the whole time, you should be able to carry your stuff too.

If I had chosen a seat, at some point my view of the production would have been obstructed, but as I was standing, I could spin and see everything. The experience is extremely immersive as the cast tend to interact with the audience, especially with the Groundlings section. I, at one point during Much Ado About Nothing was given a drink to ‘cheers’ and celebrate the character Hero’s wedding. I wish more production interacted with the audience because I love it when that happens.

The synopsis of Much Ado About Nothing is a romantic-comedy about misunderstandings. Claudio is to be married to Hero, but before the wedding Claudio is tricked into thinking that Hero is cheating on him, and so chaos ensues. Meanwhile, Beatrice and Benedick loathe each other, but with the help of others, will that loathing turn into love? Although spoken in traditional Shakespeare style, the play was not difficult to follow or understand. I firmly believe that this production could be enjoyed by anyone of all ages. I was not aware of the story of Much Ado About Nothing beforehand and watching the story unfold was the most enjoyable experience I’ve ever had watching a William Shakespeare play. And quite probably, the best play stage production I have ever seen. There is singing, dancing, laughter, audience participation and bubbles. What more could you ask for?

Much Ado About Nothing was so much fun, I smiled so much that my face hurt at the end of the show. Unlike the other 3 plays at Pop-up Globe, Much Ado About Nothing has a contemporary feel with a New Zealand touch; which is where the Pop-up Globe company is from. As the show was contemporary, the costumes weren’t 1614 style, but it didn’t matter. All of the actors were committed to their performance, flawless and the best part was they seemed to be having just as much fun as the audience were. After the production had finished, I told my friend who had accompanied me, “That was the best $20 I have ever spent.” Days after attending the performance, I still stand by this comment. If you are to attend Pop-up Globe, you don’t have to do Groundlings like me as there are seats available. The different sections are have great views too and from viewing the seats you can tell which were the rich seats back in 1614.

I absolutely hope that if I do go back again to see the other plays, I’ll be able to get another Groundlings ticket. As the productions happen regardless of weather, please make sure you are wearing the right attire. If it’s sunny bring sunscreen and a hat, if it’s going to rain bring a poncho, umbrellas wouldn’t be allowed as it would obstruct views for others. I was lucky to attend Pop-up Globe during an evening where it was perfect weather; clear sky, not too cold but not too hot either, and with no wind. But I understand we all can’t be that lucky, so check the weather before your show and plan ahead.

Pop-up Globe is a wonderful immersive experience and is worth every cent. I highly recommend checking it out. Pop-up Globe’s season has been extended and will now be in Melbourne until February 3rd, 2018. Go visit it while you can before it disappears forever.

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