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Muse of Fire

Part of the Family Arts Festival, ''Muse of Fire'' opened at Shakespeare's Globe yesterday (31 October 2013)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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This promenade piece for families takes the form of a tour of the Globe when a malevolent force has just been detected under the building – fire which may or may not be a dragon, waiting to consume anything it can find.

The audience is divided into five groups - I was in Dekker – and led from venue to venue by a tour guide with plenty of tension because we are all in danger.

First we meet Matthew Blake (of Punchdrunk fame) in his forest. A self-styled expert Mythical Beast Catcher. Blake's character, convincing, bossy and with very expressive eyes, tells a compelling story about a boy who tells lies and grows up to exploit his expertise. It's an entertaining illustration of the power of words along with a quick dip into Macbeth.

Roger Lade gives us a splendid fusty archivist with elevated speech patterns discovering Julius Caesar with the aid of some nifty puppetry and Julie Lade as his tweedy, all-knowing wife.

Next we catch a bit of Romeo and Juliet in rehearsal with Tom Giles as a traditional bewigged male Juliet and Sally Lofthouse as Romeo. The two of them play well off each other and I love the way they teach everyone in the room how the iambic pentameter works without ever mentioning the term.

Woody Murray is a delight as an Elizabethan hermit, annoyed, puzzled and terrified because he has been accused of firing the cannon which caused the Globe to burn down in 1614 and Eric Sigmundsson does well as the hard hatted man from the building site in a panic because there's a spirit loose in the building. When we meet him for the second time we are in a fiery cave listening to the soporific sinister voice of Melanie Wilson. And I'm not going to spoil the dramatic denouement in the Globe Theatre itself when all groups come together at the end.

All in all this show is a tour de force which manages to combine Shakespeare's words and plots with an imaginative exploration of the building and its history. It's entertaining, funny, clever and informative. Harper Ray and Adam Sibbald have done a splendid job of devising a series of very imaginative pieces and making sure that the whole thing hangs together seamlessly. And they've done it partly by starting with collaborations with people and organisations at the top of their game such as Little Angel Theatre, Melanie Wilson and Punchdrunk as a way of ensuring the highest possible quality.

Muse of Fire is the Globe's first foray into this sort of work. I hope it won't be the last.

- Susan Elkin