We’ve been back at the Globe for the opening performance of Gabriel, by Samuel Adamson. The setting couldn’t have been more ideal: the whole of London was out to celebrate its Friday evening and the Globe was packed and rowdy, creating an atmosphere that couldn’t have been too far off from one 400 years ago. And what better to accompany this scene than a play set in just such a time and place, celebrating the sights and sounds of London in the wake of the Glorious Revolution of 1688.
The play’s full name is Gabriel: An Entertainment with Trumpet, and trumpets abounded with much else besides. The 15-piece English Concert orchestra storm the stage from the start, led by the celebrated natural trumpeter Alison Balsom (the play is her brainchild, in collaboration with Dominic Dromgoole) and with instruments including harpsichord, Baroque guitar, violin and oboe, all set to both lead and accompany the play throughout. This is a near orgy for any Purcell lovers out there, and also a delightful introduction to those new to his music.
It’s a little hard to explain what Gabriel’s about seeing as it’s not a play in the traditional sense, but more a collection of scenes and anecdotes all set in 1600s, giving a wonderful and very human insight into what life at the royal court was like. Comedy thrives in this piece as one farcical moment leads to another, from four men farting loudly through an opera to someone running stark naked around the stage (and audience). The short ‘plays’ draw mostly on stories surrounding Purcell’s music, such as that of Cold Arabella, the court soprano who married a female ‘husband’, or the dramas surrounding the staging of Purcell’s The Fairy Queen.
The full effect of the music may have been slightly lost as it left through the open roof of the Globe, but even this added to the atmosphere of authenticity. This isn’t a play for thrilling plots or suspense lovers, but it’s a lighthearted, life-affirming evening of live music, history and hilarity. Just a pity though that the Globe appears to now be situated under a major flight path.
Gabriel is running now at the Globe, Southbank until 15 August. Tickets from £5, for more information visit the Shakespeare’s Globe website. Londonist saw this performance on a complimentary press ticket.