There are many ways to experience a Shakesperian play. You can pick up a printed copy and read through it, you can watch a film or television version, or you can go see a live performance – and if you’re visiting London, one of the best places to see a play by the Bard is at the Globe Theatre.
This amazing building is a complex and faithful reproduction of the original playhouse that is most commonly associated with William Shakespeare. The original version was built just a few hundred metres away in 1599, but it was destroyed by a fire in 1613, rebuilt in 1614 and then demolished in 1644. The modern version is a faithful reconstruction based on research from archaeologists, scholars and other experts.
It is widely considered to be a realistic version of the Elizabethan building, although it includes some contemporary additions, such as safety features and lighting.
Plays are held throughout the year at the Globe, as well as the adjoining Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, which is named after the American actor who founded the new version of the Globe.
If you’re planning at trip to London and thinking about visiting Shakespeare’s Globe, here are ten reasons you should include it on your itinerary.
The price – Tickets for shows in London can be pretty pricey, but tickets for a play at the Globe tend to be on the lower end of the spectrum. In fact, you can sometimes pick up a standing ticket for as little as £5.
The craftsmanship – From the exposed beam architecture to the intricate carvings and paintings on the stage and the beautifully hand-turned balusters around the seating areas, the artistic details throughout the theatre are truly spectacular.
Fresh air – Who wants to watch a three-hour play in a stuffy old theatre, when you could instead enjoy it while getting in a good dose of fresh(ish) air? As it was in Shakespeare’s day, the Globe is an open-air theatre, and that means that watching a performance means you get the added drama of British weather. For those with tickets in the “yard” where there’s nothing overhead but the sky and (possibly) rain clouds, you might want to bring a poncho just in case – umbrellas are not allowed. Those with seats will be under cover, as will the actors on the stage – the show must go on!
Its roof – The roof on the Globe is the first and only thatched roof to be permitted in London since the Great Fire of 1666. Unlike traditional thatching, this modern roof has plenty of built-in fire protection, such as retardant chemicals and sprinklers.
Its unusual shape – When was the last time you saw a building that was an icosahedron (a 20-sided polygon)? Once you visit the Globe, you’ll be able to answer that question easily.
Location, location, location – Situated in the Bankside area on the south bank of the River Thames, Shakespeare’s Globe is perfectly placed for a day out in London. The current location is just a short walk from where the Elizabethan version was located, and other nearby attractions include the Tate Modern, the Millennium Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Clink Prison Museum, London Bridge and Borough Market.
There’s more than Shakespeare – While the Globe does put on plenty of Shakesperian pieces every year, it’s also a venue for works by other playwrights – including some modern pieces. So if you want to see a play, but aren’t so sure about the Bard, be sure to check the theatre’s schedule.
The dancing – During the Elizabethan period, every one of Shakespeare’s plays ended with a jig. All of the actors – even those whose characters had died during the performance – got up on stage and danced an often bawdy dance. The point of this, it seems, was to act almost as a palate cleanser after the dramatic scenes that had unfolded in the minutes or hours before. Today, performances at the Globe continue this tradition, and it’s an enjoyable way to end the night.
It’s Shakespeare as it was meant to be – There’s no denying that people sometimes think of Shakespeare’s plays dry and boring. But if you really understand the drama that unfolds, you’ll quickly realise that the Bard was funny, daring and covered many issues that are still prominent today. The plays can be exciting – but they’re best viewed on a stage, rather than read in a book, with costumes and facial expressions and vocal intonations. Thanks to the Globe theatre, we can now watch Shakespeare’s plays in a way that closely resembles what he would have expected 400 years ago.
There’s great accommodation nearby – Shakespeare’s Globe is about 4.5 miles from the Park Grand London Kensington, and travelling between the theatre and the hotel is easy, with Tube journeys on public transport only taking around 45 minutes. This means that after you see a play at the Globe, you can quickly get back to your stylish and comfortable hotel room for a bit of rest and relaxation.