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A review by Vanessa Bunn for EXTRA! EXTRA!



Shakespeare’s Globe presents



Gabriel at Shakespeare's Globe, directed by Dominic Dromgoole
Photo by John Haynes


by Samuel Adamson


Directed by Dominic Dromgoole

Creative Producer - Alison Balsom

Designed by Jonathan Fensom

Music Consultant - Trevor Pinnock


Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre


13 July - 18 Aug 2013



Bankside, London in the throes of an uncommon sun-delivering summer is hosting an all-embracing series of short plays portraying a frenzied, disorderly 1690’s London. Good weather and unruly entertainment are undoubtedly a terrific match and audience members in the know, as well as those who stumble in as curious groundlings, are in equally high-spirits as the musicians of The Concert take to the stage. Samuel Adamson has created a heaving piece which explores and celebrates the lives of 17th-Century musicians both real and imagined, as well as the monarchs and various laypeople who encouraged, influenced and interacted with them.  

Richard Riddell is amiable and naturally engaging as narrator, John. On press night he got off to a particularly good start by managing to rouse ice-breaking laughter when a passing helicopter interrupted his lively introduction at the word ‘silence’. The amiability of his character and his almost constant presence is a reassuring lynchpin through the potentially confusing patchwork of scenes.

The individual plays are largely stand-alone excepting ‘The Waterman’ which is divided in two parts. Here we observe a group of musicians being ferried over the Thames by one rower who is rather slack with the truth of the tales he recounts, and another who is comically disgruntled by his constant chatter. Some of the briefest sketches tickle hardest. A witty exchange between Lady Curious (Sarah Sweeney) and Lady Victim (Amanda Wilkin) when the latter finds she has been relieved of her purse by a nimble-fingered trumpeter stands out as one such scene.

William, Duke of Gloucester, the ailing nephew of Queen Mary (Charlotte Mills) is a petulant, war-obsessed child of six played by a tall grown man, (Joshua James) with a real flair for mischief. Jesse Buckley, fresh from playing Miranda in Shakespeare’s The Tempest takes the role of a notorious beauty in ‘Cold Arabella’, about a celebrated singer at the Royal Court and her tragic romantic circumstances. Her rendition of ‘Cold and Raw’ is one of the musical peaks of the evening. Comedy ‘The Lost Score’ addresses the mysterious circumstances behind the infamous disappearance of The Fairy Queen, which was lost for two centuries shortly after the time in which Adamson’s action is set.

Award-winning and critically acclaimed classical musician Alison Balsom produces a magical, authoritative sound with her celebrated trumpet. Accompanied by the mesmerising English Concert, as cheerful and involving an orchestra as I’ve ever witnessed, the music flows flawlessly and binds the various tales of the evening together. Balsom occupies centre-stage in a humble but likely fashion, and like the rest of the cast, clearly enjoys every minute of the action.

Donning restoration dress for over two hours in this searing weather is a feat in itself, one which only Bill (Trevor Fox) is excused from since he, spends most of the evening guarding his modesty with a trumpet having been tricked out of his clothes by a ‘Dutch drab’.

While frolicking and foolery are prevalent in informing the mood of the show, it should also be noted that Adamson’s production presents some absolute solemnity which is fortified by the eloquent trumpeting of Balsom and the music of Henry Purcell. The sombre funeral procession of Queen Mary is one of the most singularly moving spectacles I’ve ever witnessed at The Globe. The true magic of this work lies in the ability of Adamson, Balsom, The Concert and the cast to span the chasm between elation and desolation.


Alison Balsom in Gabriel at Shakespeare's Globe

Photo by John Haynes
Booking: 020 7401 9919
Shakespeare’s Globe
21 New Globe Walk
Bankside, London SE1 9DT
Tickets: £5 - £39

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