In The Wings


The old man was as greedy with his bottle as he was lazy with his seniority. Still, he was company. And such stories!

Geoffrey took his own bottle from his pocket, raised it. “Cheers.”

“Bumpers,” said the old man. He drained his pint in a long swallow, holding the empty bottle at length to be sure of the last drop. Satisfied, he wiped his mouth with his sleeve. “Now where was I?”

“You were telling me about Lord Olivier. About the first time he played Hamlet.”

“Right. A little shite, he was. Nervous as a summer flea. I recall him whispering to himself. Sounded like a daft old woman.”

“It must have been a great event in your life to see him there.”

The old man, savage now, cocked an eye. “How d’you mean?”

“Well, such a splendid actor. All the history of the Globe. You know. Garrick, even the Bard himself…”

Geoffrey felt his face grow hot. He was about to add something about glory, but didn’t.

The old man snorted and reached a hand  for Geoffrey’s bottle.


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  1. kirizar

    Okay, American here, not entirely sure whether this is the tale of a time traveler or a drunk man making impossible claims about seeing the Globe in the days of Lord Oliver–who, by the way, does not easily come up in a Google search, so maybe I’m entirely off base about the above.

    • J Hardy Carroll

      Laurence Olivier first played Hamlet with the Old Vic company in 1937, when he was in his thirties. He was compared unfavorably to John Gielgud. He may have played the Dane earlier, but there’s no record of it I can find.

      The drunk old stagehand is obviously bullshitting, since the restored Globe shown in the photograph was built in 1997, eight years after Olivier’s death. Geoffrey is a bit wide-eyed himself, I think.

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