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Liberty at Shakespeare’s Globe

The autumn offering at Shakespeare's Globe is a new play by Glyn Maxwell based on Anatole France's 1912 novel 'Les Dieux ont soif'.

It explores the dynamics of life under the new republican regime after the French Revolution, a new Eden of Equality, Liberty and Fraternity.

It is fascinating to learn how the months were named after prevailing weather conditions and were divided into three weeks of 10 days each. A young radical, Gamelin, sturdily played by David Sturzacker, is an idealist poet who, when he gains power, is corrupted like everyone else.

He falls in love with ambitious but naïve Elodie (sparky Ellie Piercey). Friends Rose Clebert (Kirsty Besterman) and Philippe (Edward Macliam) are intelligent foils for their relationship. ‘I love reason but I love justice more' says Gamelin. ‘I got rid of mine [principles] and the world turned fascinating' says Philippe.

I enjoyed the presence of the honest deposed nobleman and puppeteer Maurice (John Bett), living in Gamelin's attic and reminding him of his core values. Scheming actress Louise (Belinda Lang) falls for him too. Her influence changes Gamelin into a Magistrate with power, who, becoming suspicious of a former lover of his wife, and inflamed with jealousy, turns on his fellow countrymen and orders their execution.

No good comes from the new regime and Gamelin too goes to the guillotine. There are references to the historical Robespierre, Danton, Marat, but the uninitiated don't really get the point in this overlong play.

I wondered how the many overseas visitors, who enjoy the Shakespeare as they are usually familiar with the stories, coped with this text, full of half-developed ideas.

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