“ 21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, SE1 9DT. (London Bridge/Southwark tube). Open daily: 9am-12pm (May-Sept); 10am-5pm (Oct-April). Closed: Christmas Eve & Day. Tel: +44 (0)20 7902 1500. „
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Shakespeare's Globe stands as a monument to both the eponymous playwright and to the vision of actor Sam Wanamaker, who founded the Globe Trust in 1970. After first visiting London in 1949, he was shocked to find there was no lasting memorial to the bard on such a significant site as Bankside; this was the cradle of English theatre, and where the most famous dramatic poet in the English language worked for many years, and yet nothing but a half-hearted sign remained to mark the location. The most fitting memorial seemed to him to be a faithful reconstruction of the Globe Theatre, the playhouse that Shakespeare wrote many of his greatest works for. Recreating the Globe was a long and difficult battle for the Trust to say the least; it took until 1987 to lay the foundations, and building work on the theatre wasn't started until 1993, being finally completed in 1997. The final outcome is rather impressive, though. Shakespeare's Globe looks fascinatingly incongruous on the busy modern Southwark riverside, next to Tate Modern. The reconstruction of the theatre is expanded with a visitor centre of considerable size next to it, filled with all the trappings of a modern museum: exhibition, educational facilities, restaurant, and shop. It exists today as a working theatre and to educate visitors about Shakespeare and the original Globe Theatre.
- "The play's the thing" (Hamlet, act 2, scene 2)
One of the main attractions for us was the chance to have a guided tour of the reconstructed Globe; the tours depart at regular intervals during the day and are included in the prices of your entrance ticket. I should note here that tours of the Globe can only take place when there isn't a play being staged in it - it sounds obvious, but it means that when there is a matinee show on, you won't be able to get into the reconstructed theatre. At these times, the tour guides instead use the cleverly incorporated elements of a Tudor theatre that have been built into the exhibition area (which they refer to as the Rose Theatre). Visitors are also taken to the nearby site of the real Rose Theatre, the only English playhouse of the period to have been extensively excavated. While the Rose Theatre does have a stage, balconies, seating and other props to demonstrate to visitors how theatres of the period worked, I don't think it is any substitute for being able to see inside the real thing - especially if you are not going to see a play (and it can be quite hard to get tickets). I would suggest visitors therefore check the Globe website in advance to find out when plays are being staged to arrange their visit around them (and if in doubt, just make sure you get there in the morning!).
The tour lasted the best part of an hour and took in all the main elements of the theatre, led by an enthusiastic and well-informed guide. The key element of the Globe is that it is not a museum or simply a reconstruction of the past: it is also very much a working theatre. The theatre allows actors, audiences and scholars to discover just how Tudor playhouses would have operated, and it was in a rather different manner than today's theatre experience. The Globe is an open-air circular building, built entirely from wood for a start (traditional materials and methods were used as far as modern health and safety would allow), and there is also the crucial difference that not all of Shakespeare's audiences would have been seated - there were also the "groundlings" who stood informally in the space between seats and stage. In this setting, there was a greater degree of interaction between actors and audience, meaning the "fourth wall" of the modern theatre is less apparent. As part of the tour, we were able to experience the perspective from both the seats and the groundling's area. When we first planned our visit to the Globe, we hadn't intended to see a play there, being more interested in how the archaeology of excavated theatres of the period had been utilised to create this working model of a playhouse. The tour certainly fired our enthusiasm to take in the matinee, especially as it turned out to be "A Midsummer's Night's Dream", a play we both rather like. Alas, the seated tickets had long since sold out (and also for that evening), and the steady rain that had set in rather discouraged us from trying the groundling experience. I do hope to see a play in the Globe on a future occasion, though - and I know now to book well in advance!
- "Too much of a good thing?" (As You Like It, act 4 scene 1)
With our tour satisfyingly concluded, we headed in out of the rain to have a nose around the Globe's Shakespeare exhibition. The exhibition claims to be the most extensive exhibition in the world dedicated to Shakespeare and his contemporaries in performance, and I could well believe it. It was far larger than I had anticipated, and surprisingly interesting too! That may well sound like an odd thing for someone with an interest in history and museums to say, but like many people, my interest in Shakespeare has long been tarnished by school English lessons. But this exhibition didn't just discuss the man himself, it also branched out to cover topics surrounding the theatre (such as what the actors wore, theatrical music and how Elizabethan special effects were created), how the modern Globe was built, and the impact of Shakespeare on modern language - they even showed the period objects that had been found when the site was excavated to build the current buildings. There was also a section dedicated to the modern performance of Shakespeare, comparing how famous actors (such as Derek Jacobi, John Gielgud and Marlon Brando) performed roles and lines from his plays. It was impressive in scope and clearly explained throughout...and yes, I did leave with a more positive opinion of the bard than I have had since school.
- "Oft expectation fails" (All's Well That Ends Well, act 2 scene 1)
Feeling rather peckish after all this education, we made our way over to the building adjacent to the Globe, that acts as a box office and centre for visitor services. There were two eating areas that we could see: a rather formal and upmarket brasserie, and a small corner offering sandwiches, coffees and snacks. We opted for the latter, but found the choice of food to be very limited and not especially appealing, being of very limited range and pretentious variety. Neither of us were overly impressed at the catering arrangements (and judging by the number of visitors wandering up to the fridges and then leaving without buying anything, we were not alone in this opinion). The brasserie (www.swanattheglobe.co.uk/) was a bit too expensive and formal for what we wanted, and we didn't really want to spend a long time over lunch. The shop was similarly upmarket, favouring high quality and pricey items, with a few smaller bits and pieces that seemed to be there to attract the schoolchild audience. The items were themed around plays, such as Macbeth, a Midsummer's Night's Dream and King Lear - you can get a good look at them on the Globe's online shop at www.globe-shop.com/ - and were of the variety that you would more likely buy for someone else as a gift than purchase for yourself, I would say!
- "Parting is such sweet sorrow" (Romeo and Juliet, act 2, scene 2)
What are my final thoughts on Shakespeare's Globe? Well, I had an enjoyable visit and was pleasantly surprised how quiet it was for a Saturday - the Globe just doesn't seem to receive the publicity and marketing that other London attractions of similar standing do. In a way I think this is a shame, as it is a venue that does deserve more support, but I was also quiet pleased to be able to wander around the exhibition without being jostled or hurried along by crowds. I think it was a couple of hours well spent, and I would certainly like to return to see a play there at some point in the future, although I think they could stand to offer a little more in the way of informal catering. This is a visit that will appeal to people with an interest in history or the theatre as well as in Shakespeare specifically, and I'm sure it will be invaluable to students of English literature or drama to see this marvellous reconstruction.
- "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow..." (Macbeth, act 5, scene 5)
23 April to 5 October
Open daily: 9am to 12.30pm (Theatre Tour and Exhibition)
1pm to 5pm (Theatre Tour and Exhibition - from 23 April the tour will be taken to the Rose Theatre site)
Sunday: 9am - 11.30am (Theatre Tour and Exhibition)
12.00pm to 5pm (Exhibition and visit to Rose Theatre Site)
Adult - £10.50
Senior (60+) & Student (with valid ID) - £8.50
Children (5-15) - £6.50
Family (up to 2 adults & 3 children) - £28.00 (£30.00 with guidebook)
Friends of Shakespeare's Globe - Free
Box Office Ticket Prices:
Seated tickets range from £12 to £33, depending on how good the view is
Standing tickets £5
Concessionary prices available to under 16s, disabled visitors and Friends of Shakespeare's Globe
Nearest tube: London Bridge (10 minutes walk) or Southwark (15 minutes walk)
In September I decided to brave the not so sunny weather and take my sister to the Globe Theatre for her birthday. I have always loved Shakespeare and was quite excited about the whole trip. The theatre is located by the Thames not far from Waterloo station, so is easy to get to. After fighting through the crowds of Americans that always gather around anything to do with Shakespeare, we arrived in the theatre itself. As promised it is a faithful reconstruction of the original which burnt down in 1613, which of course means that if you are in the pit (which is the best place to be as you can see everything, and only costs a fiver!) then you might get a bit wet but they sell plastic sheet type things if you are afraid of a little water. The theatre itself is circular to a fashion as the pulpits (seating areas) branch away from the stage in a horse-shoe fashion. If you want you can even sit directly above the stage but I wouldn't recommend it as the people who were up there had to keep leaning over as they couldn't see anything! As to the production, I went to see Macbeth which was superbly executed! I won't go into too much detail as they will have different plays on when it reopens in the summer, but suffice to say it was superb. In the Globe there is no special effects or dramatic lighting, just a few props and a small accompanying orchestra to support the actors. In Macbeth the actors were dressed in 1920's style suits and the whole play was acted to a Jazz accompanyment. This allowed the actors to truely perform their roles. The only props were chairs, a table, some party hats, feathers (to symbolize blood), and pebbles (which symbolized a characters life). The rest was left to the actors and the music. It lasted over 3 hours and my neck hurt afterwards but it was a fantastic experience and I will be going again next summer! (Tickets are easy to get but if you want to get a seat t
hen you need to book quite early in advance and they cost around 25 pounds. The pit tickets, where you stand but are very close to the stage, are better value as they are only a fiver and you can buy them on the door but I would still advise booking in advance (which can be done via post, phone, or internet.)).
The original Globe Theatre burned down in 1613, but this stunning re-creation (close to the site of the original), using as many of the original materials and building techniques as possible, is far more than a cheesy tourist attraction. In addition to being able to see the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries as the Elizabethans would have experienced them (from May to September; in winter in the indoor Inigo Jones Theatre), there’s a first-rate exhibition and an entertaining and informative guided tour of the theatre to enjoy.
At the instigation of Sam Wanamaker, a new Globe theatre was built according to an Elizabethan plan. The structural design was carried out by Buro Happold with Pentagram as the architects. It opened in 1997 under the name "Shakespeare's Globe Theatre" and now stages plays every summer (May to October). Mark Rylance was appointed as the first artistic director of the modern Globe in 1995. After 10 years, Dominic Dromgoole took over in 2006.