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Totus mundus agit histrionem: all the world's a playhouse. Some people think that was the motto of Shakespeare's original Globe theatre in London. In any case, the new(ish) Globe theatre has taken it up this year.

It does, however, raise a difficult question in this age of mass communication, reality tele­vision, infotainment and information fatigue: if all the world is a playhouse, if everything is a "show-game" (Schauspiel, as Germans say), what need of theatres? If fact beggars fiction and is now so easy to observe in countless ways, why would anyone go to the playhouse?

The standard answer is that the best drama touches and transforms in a way peculiar to theatre, and that - therefore - confronted with great theatre the question simply disappears.

It did not disappear for me, unfortunately, in my recent visits to Liberty at the Globe (until October 4, after which it is on tour until November 15) and to Her Naked Skin, which has just finished a short run at the Olivier. In fact the most moving thing on both occasions was walking at night across the Thames to and from these great theatres, especially from St Paul's across the wobbly Millennium Bridge to Southwark, where Shakespeare also walked, though not of course on the wobbly bridge. Earth hath not anything all that much more fair to show than that.

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