As You Like It, by William Shakespeare, directed by Jessica Stone at The Old Globe.
The Old Globe Theatre should probably be called the Old Globe Theatres. Three different venues make up the complex, two of them indoor. It’s the outdoor stage, the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre, that hosts the Globe’s annual Shakespeare Festival, which goes back 70 years now. This season’s first bard production is the comedy, As You Like It.
These summer Shakespeare productions can usually bet against poor weather. But this year, on the solstice itself, the typical mostly cloudy June gloom forecast delivered more than promised, giving those in attendance the answer to a question most of us never thought to ask: what happens during one of these outdoor Shakespeare productions when it rains?
Early in the first act, a light mist floated more than fell across the path of stage lights, mere droplets twinkling above audience and actors’ heads like glittering confetti. It was magical, really, and might have been more so had it held in this manner long enough to coincide with the escapes of our lead characters, Rosalind and Orlando, into the Ardenne forest.
Even our rainless summer nights do chill, so they check out blankets at the Lowell Davies theater. As the mist gained a little weight, the blankets came out, and audience members huddled beneath them hoping to stay warm if not entirely dry. The actors had no such place to hide. Dressed in 16th-century French period costumes, complete with stiff corsets and exaggerated farthingale hips, they trod onward. True thespians, they delivered their iambic lines in rhythm, betraying little notice of the dew gathering on their cheeks, or the increasingly slippery boards under their feet, as the droplets in the spotlight beams blurred into a loose, linear drizzle.
It was the audience who broke first, groups of two and four quietly ducking out of their seats and hurrying up to the lobby under cover of blankets and jackets. A few stragglers immediately followed. The rest of us turned envious heads to follow their movement, made mental calculations how stiff the rain would have to get before we too fled.
But before we could decide, a voice cut in through the loudspeaker, declaring the play was to “pause,” due to weather. A collective sigh of relief rose from all of us in answer to the damp sky. The actors, mid-scene when it happened, suddenly snapped out of character with great gasps of their own, their bodies going slack like untangling marionettes. The applause appreciating their effort was heartfelt and robust.
We crowded under the eaves at the front of the theater while honest rain ensued, and within ten minutes a voice over the speaker announced the show had been canceled. We would be reticketed with comparable seats to future shows, we only needed to contact the box office later to rebook. Fortunately, it’s early in the season: the show will go on until July 21.