Whilst Shakespeare’s Globe on London’s Southbank is clearly associated with William Shakespeare, the theatre also puts on regular productions of new works and the works of Shakespeare’s contemporaries. A new performance for the summer of 2013 is Gabriel, a raucous romp through some titillating tales of the time, held together centrally by the music of Henry Purcell.
Playwright Samuel Anderson brings together part concert, part play in Gabriel, think Canterbury Tales but a teensy bit more modern. Alison Balsom leads The English Concert on trumpet as they accompany and become part of the action in a series of tales of the era. Beware, it may sound like a jolly jaunt into history but there are some sinister and saucy themes explored. As ever, the audience of Gabriel was largely made up of people wishing to experience the majesty of The Globe itself, but quickly everyone warmed to the cast and musicians and became heavily invested in the characters.
Using the music of Henry Purcell as a central thread throughout Gabriel means that whilst the lack of continual plot can be a little disorienting at times, you always find your way back to the overarching storyline. We hear snippets of tales from around 1605, such as the soprano who married a woman and was taunted by the Queen, the prince with water on the brain and the scandal of the theatre. The company are all excellent, staying perfectly in character and catching the eye of everyone in the audience, such is the nature of The Globe. Sombre moments of the production are dealt with excellently, whilst the largely bawdy and jubilant nature comes across well. The instruments are played with precision, creating a sound that whilst true to the original composition is also very modern.
If the music of Purcell, the lives of those in the 17th Century and a bit of casual nudity are up your street, you should absolutely check out Gabriel at The Globe. Running time is 2hrs 40mins with an interval. Bring a bottle of water or The Globe will bankrupt you for a can of coke. Standing tickets should be fine, beware of the sunshine. Seats are excellent and you don’t feel left out of the action at all, although you’re not quite as in the middle of it as the ground-lings are!