The Globe Theatre, in case you’re unaware, was the playhouse where William Shakespeare wrote and performed with the Lord Chamberlain’s Men–lead by Richard Burbage. If you’ve seen Shakespeare in Love than you’ve got all this down pat.
What stands today, of course, is not the original establishment. The original was constructed in 1599, but burned down in 1613. It was quickly rebuilt and business resumed until all the playhouses were closed in 1644 by the Puritan regime. After that, it was demolished to make room for tenements.
In 1997, American actor and director Sam Wannamaker posthumously completed his life work of rebuilding the Globe with as much historical accuracy as possible.
Thus, the Globe is an open-air, circular structure, surrounding a thrust stage. So be sure to dress accordingly for the weather.
You’ll also want to reserve a cushion when you purchase your tickets since the seats are also historically accurate (i.e. rather stiff and narrow wooden benches). It’s cheaper to pay for the cushion as a bundle with your ticket than at the performance.
You’ll want to arrive with plenty of time to shop at The Rising Sun. There are tons of postcards, quotable posters & mugs, plus lots of books either of the plays or about the playwright himself.
You can also purchase DVD recordings of some past performances. It’s a great way to see some of the greats in case you missed them. Like Jonathan Pryce as Shylock in Merchant of Venice (2015). Or Charles Edwards as the title character in Richard II (2015) for all you Downton Abbey fans like me (he plays Michael Gregson, Lady Edith’s ill-fated second love). Or Colin Morgan as Ariel in The Tempest (2013) (he played Merlin on the BBC show of the same name). Or Jamie Parker as the title character in Henry V (2012) (perhaps better known as Harry Potter in The Cursed Child). Or Arthur Darvill as Mephistopheles in Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus (2011) (i.e. Dr. Who’s Rory).
Speaking of Kit Marlowe, the Globe does perform more than traditional Shakespeare. They also stage his contemporaries’ work, as well as reimagined Shakespeare, and even a few modern plays.
That being said, there are also all-male productions and Elizabethan-pronunciation versions staged as well. It’s a mixed bag and I think that’s a great thing–paying homage to heritage while still fostering inventive drama as did Shakespeare himself.
After you’ve spent all your “shillings” on wooden swords and daggers in the gift shop, you’ll want to place an order at The Swan in the courtyard. I ordered Pimm’s before and for during the interval (i.e. intermission). They don’t do transactions during the break, so you pay ahead of time and they leave your drink along with your receipt on a shelf for you to pick up.
Becca and I’s seats were in the East Tower, all the way at the top and the very last row. I had to lean on the bar to see. I can definitely say that I’ve never experienced anything like it. I also think that my glass of Pimm’s helped alleviate some of the vertigo.
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The play that we saw was Much Ado About Nothing. It was reimagined–set in revolutionary war-era Mexico.
They also adapted it to be female sisters to Leonato & Pedro (Don Juanna), which was interesting but I wonder what the purpose behind it was. Simply to allow more female casting? To add a gender layer? To help explain why Don John hated Don Pedro so much?
They also added dancing & singing, some in Spanish, which I thought was a great cultural touch, especially the finalé.
The costumes were simple in comparison to the Elizabethan garb I had expected, but still vibrant and historical–just in another era. I’d love to try a dress like that on just once.
The ‘horses’ (the actors stood on stilts & held metal heads in front of them) were inventive but a bit distracting at times because the actors had to constantly shift to keep their balance, although this did have the effect of making the ‘horses’ seem restless.
I was struck by how affecting Shakespeare still is and to so many. Everyone laughed and gasped at the right parts. I’m so used to people just giving up on Shakespeare because it’s too ‘high brow.’
Overall, the show was great (except Claudio, obviously, but that’s the writer’s fault so I digress—lookin’ at you, Shakespeare). The acting had great comedic and dramatic timing. I was impressed with the use of space, especially during the vigil for Hero. If you look closely at the photo above you can see a small outcropping amidst the groundlings. Claudio ascended it and basically cursed himself to great dramatic effect.