Shakespeare in Rome. In English, Shakespearean English at that. Not a connection that I’d make immediately but not quite as farfetched as one might think. The Globe theatre in London is the famous replica of the original where many of Shakespeare’s plays were first performed. What was surprising is that there’s a replica of the Globe right here in Rome, in the middle of the Villa Borghese, made with wood from France and for the past week, had a British troupe close their 2016 Summer/Autumn season with a production of The Tempest.
Surprisingly, that wasn’t what first attracted me to the performance. It was the little note below the title that stated ‘in lingua originale’ – in its original language. Shakespeare in English in Rome? The icing on the cake was the chance to see The Tempest again, a play that I lived and breathed for more than half of 2015. The chance to see it done professionally in a setting that’s as close to the original that I can possible get was too good to miss. I emptied the piggy bank and got tickets.
This is not a review but a record of my reflection after the play. It was an oasis for me, a pool of familiarity and comfort, where for two and a half hours, I was whisked away from the worries of theology in Italian, undecipherable readings and articles and the banality of routine. At the Globe, I could lose myself in the metaphors and puns that I understood (I realise that metaphor and puns are the most difficult things to understand in a new language) and revel in the beauty that is Shakespeare.
More than that, the analytical (drama-mama) part of me watched the play with a critical eye to staging and direction, lapping up the novel ways in which the director was able to use the simple stage to dazzling effect. There was some validation and vindication (for me at least) in the way that many of the characters were portrayed, that told me that we weren’t too far off from the pros in our interpretation of the play. And while our production was a little more genteel and stately, this one was quite bawdy and almost manic, possibly to play to an audience for which the language is not completely familiar.
Which brings me to the final bit – why we go to plays and why plays attract us so. We can turn to TV and the cinema for our normal doses of suspension from reality but the theatre brings it that much closer to us. The immediacy of the action, the total immersion of ourselves in the drama that happens before us, with real people leading us into a world that’s beyond our normal experience – that’s why we go to the theatre and that’s why it can never be supplanted by even the most immersive of digital media. And that’s what continues to draw me back to drama – the possibility of bringing others such experiences, and maybe, just maybe, continue to bring the message of hope and love back to a world that needs it so.