Wednesday, 16 May 2018

'Eastward Ho!' at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

On Sunday afternoon we went to a 'Read Not Dead' performance of 'Eastward Ho!' in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare's Globe. The 'Read Not Dead' series picks out little performed plays and gathers together a cast of players who have a single rehearsal on a Sunday morning and then perform the play, script in hand, that afternoon. 'Eastward Ho!' was co-written by Ben Johnson and that was enough to pique my curiosity so I booked tickets. I've only ever seen Johnson's 'Volpone' so it was an opportunity to see another of his works.

The Globe bill it as the tale of Master Touchstone's daughters, one haughty and one meek, but I saw a very different play. The daughters are in it but it's more about commerce, greed and power, using women as chattels to get funding, class and the ruling monied elite, the potential of Empire and, of course, morality and goodness against plain old selfish nastiness. That takes up a few more words, I suppose, but it's so much more than the tale of two daughters.

I loved it. It felt fresh and alive, many of the themes relevant to today and the thrill of almost sitting on the edge of your seat wondering whether they'll get it right. And, by and large, they did, which was very impressive. Well done to the troupe! I suppose it's that thing of getting the key essentials of the character right and then it doesn't matter if you don't get the odd line quite right or miss you cue, you still bring the 'reality' of the character to the fore. I particularly liked Michael Matus as Touchstone, Ralph Davis as his greedy apprentice and Daisy Boulton as Touchstone's haughty daughter who simply wants to marry someone/anyone who could give her the title of 'Lady' and a carriage. Well done people, and to everyone involved.

But Globe, please, why such uncomfortable seats? I know it's about recreating the Shakespearean experience but you've already relented by adding cushions so why not add a back to the benches? You don't have Shakespearean toilets so why insist on uncomfortable seats?

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