Women Rule In King John At The Globe
James Dacre's version of one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known histories opens with monks pacing the cruciform stage and chanting ceremonially. It sets the tone for a many-layered show, a visually and aurally rich spectacle, in which song and movement supplement — and at times triumph over — the action.
Drama ensues as King John, having just been crowned King of England, is threatened with war if he does not surrender his title to his young nephew Arthur. Jo Stone-Fewings plays a snide and petulant John, his witty quips and (somewhat bizarre) jaunty physicality repeatedly provoking laughter from the audience. Alex Waldmann as the Bastard — King Richard I’s illegitimate child — makes use of the promenade section of the stage to interact with the audience and is the only character that straddles the divide between audience and performer, commenting on action that has frozen into tableaux and directly addressing the crowd.
It is, however, the women in the play who really run the show. John’s mother, Eleanor of Aquitane (Barbara Marten), and Arthur’s mother Constance (Tanya Moodie), encourage and attempt to control their sons’ fight for power. Moodie and Marten’s performances are powerful and compelling; Moodie enacts a breakdown that stands out particularly, lifting the level of the drama to one that does Shakespeare’s probing script justice.
As an experience, the show is magnificent. Aruhun Galieva and Laurence Belcher, who play Blanche of Castile and Arthur, have mesmerising voices and the song and music create an atmosphere that, combined with subtle but imaginative choreography and opulent costumes, will leave you moved and meditative as night falls.
By Savannah Whaley
King John runs at Shakespeare’s Globe, Bankside, until 27 June. Tickets £5-£43. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.
Last Updated 09 October 2015