“Get in the car, Kate. Get in the car now!!!!” shouts the young man, brandishing his car keys outside St. Helen’s Bishopsgate. Kate stands firm. “No.” We stop. Is this real? Are we just eavesdropping on a romantic falling out? Or…or….”O Kate, content thee, prithee be not angry…” and so a scene from Taming of the Shrew begins.
An attractive, but agitated young man, dressed in a trendy black suit, approachs the group. “Do you have a light? Do you have a light? Doesn’t anyone smoke anymore? I had to come outside for a smoke. You will NOT believe what Edgar has posted on Facebook…” a nice segue into Edmund’s impassioned speech on the injustice shown him,
“Wherefore should I
Stand in the plague of custom, and permit
The curiosity of nations to deprive me,
For that I am some twelve or fourteen moon-shines
Lag of a brother? Why bastard? wherefore base?…”
And such is the fun and delight of the annual Globe Sonnet Walks. First held in 1994 as a way to celebrate the Bard’s birthday, they have remained thus, growing more popular every year. The concept is simple: a starting point, a handout with historical tidbits and directions, a long stemmed rose, for identification purposes, and an enthusiasm for seemingly spontaneous acting on the streets of London. At various spots along the route, scenes (of late, rather than sonnets) are acted out for your pleasure. With a modern twist that proves just how relevant Shakespeare still is today. And of course, always a sense of humour, because no one does clever quite as cleverly as the Globe.
The young woman swearing that female infidelity only mimics that of men, delivers this speech with an almost empty bottle of Blossom Hill rose clutched in her hand….oh honey, we’ve all been there.
A rousing sing-along of “Holding Out for a Hero” following Marc Antony’s “Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Lend me your ears” speech causes bewildered tourists to toss the busker a few coins.
One of our group is asked to complete the impossible task of folding a festival pup tent back into its bag, while we are all reminded that “I see a man’s life is a tedious one…”
A stiletto-heeled Lady Macbeth with burning cigarette leaves a bright red lipstick kiss on the cheek of her Macbeth of the moment. Viola is disguised as a builder working on a demolition site in Shoreditch. A gym-kitted Courtesan rages that Antipholus has gone insane. And so its goes….All the actors are superb, convincing, funny, engaging, each performance its own stand alone special treat. With the great landmarks of London as stage set.
The walks are timed and ticketed with the choice of an East or West route. Both end up at the gates of the Globe, where many chose to entwine their rose in the beautiful wrought-iron, white and red together, like the Tudors these plays entertained. Perfect day.