The Tempest: Shakespeare’s ‘first’ play – part 1
It is 1611. You are sitting in the Blackfriars theatre, north of the river Thames, near the City walls. It is a small hall space, very different from the large amphitheatres such as the Globe just across the river. No need to worry about being rained on here. You look around…as usual the audience have decided to come and show off the latest London fashion under the candlelight which lights the theatre: the auditorium shimmers and glitters with expensive materials and jewels. Some of the wealthier women have used crushed pearl to paint their faces, as is the trend, and their skin glistens in the light.
The place is packed – every seat is filled and, unlike the Globe, there is no standing. You have chosen one of the seats on stage – you don’t mind paying a little more to be close to the action! Today the King’s Men perform a new play by their leading playwright, Shakespeare. He’s written for the Blackfriars since 1609 when the company took over the venue: they use it for the winter and return to their longstanding home, the Globe, for the summer months. But although Shakespeare has written other plays for this space, rumour has it that today’s play is the first to fully exploit the playing possibilities of the Blackfriars. So you are looking forward to see what all the fuss is about. The concert performed just before the play finishes – music works so well in this small indoor space, a whole range of instruments are played here that you just would not be able to hear at outdoor playhouses. It is little wonder that so many playwrights like to use lots of music in their Blackfriars plays. The sounds of the concert are still in your ears but, then, suddenly, rudely, this is disrupted – the loudest noise, thunder, lightning, you are in the midst of a storm….. The Tempest has begun Continue Reading