Last night, for the first time in over a decade, I attended an evening performance at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre here in London. I have been to many matinees there over the last ten years, but nothing with a start-time later than 4pm. The play that prompted me to miss every minute of Spain’s 1-0 win over Iran in the Football World Cup was “The Two Noble Kinsmen”, which is staged very rarely.
This piece from last November, after seeing “Coriolanus” at the Barbican, recorded that I had “completed the set” for a second time: I had seen at least two stage productions of the 37 Shakespeare plays contained in my 1970s hardback copy of the Complete Works. Between 1978 and 1985 the BBC broadcast filmed versions of those same 37 plays. Recently we started watching the BBC’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, as preparation for my daughter’s Year 6 production of the play next month. I had forgotten that Phil Daniels plays Puck, with vampire-like teeth, and a more threatening manner than usual: aggressive rather than puckish. I hadn’t forgotten Helen Mirren’s performance as Titania, or Brian Glover as Bottom.
“The Two Noble Kinsmen” is not on my “official” list of 37 plays – it was a co-write with John Fletcher, after all – but I had seen it once before (Bristol Old Vic, 2004) and have been looking out for productions of it ever since. In the summer of 2015 I drove to Kennington to catch it at The White Bear, a fringe theatre attached to a pub. It was a Saturday evening. I went alone, didn’t leave West London as early as planned, and the traffic was so bad that by the time I found the place it was nearly an hour after the play’s start time. I didn’t bother trying to park, just headed home listening to Paul Gambaccini’s “America’s Greatest Hits” show on Radio 2, a much-missed feature of our Saturday evenings.
If you miss the first hour of a play you can’t really claim to have seen it, so even if I had parked up and seen the second half of that fringe production, I would have continued to look out for another staging of “The Two Noble Kinsmen”. It’s not one of Shakespeare’s best or best-known works, which explains why it is so rarely staged, but last night’s Northern Broadsides production at the Globe, directed by Barrie Rutter, was fun, fast-paced, and compact. Including the interval it clocked in at under 2 hours 20 minutes, so I was out of the theatre and heading across the Millennium Bridge to Blackfriars station in time to enjoy the last moments of daylight, and was home in time for the highlights of that Spain v Iran game. I didn’t miss much.