quod fere totus mundus exerceat histrionem—
“because all the world plays the actor”
William Shakespeare is one of the most recognizable names across the globe, so it comes as no surprise that Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, a recreation of the playwright’s original London theatre, is one of the city’s most popular attractions. There is something so magical about standing beneath the stage of The Globe, and the fact that the theatre only dates back to 1997 doesn’t seem to matter.
I have walked by Shakespeare’s Globe a hundred times, so I thought it was about time I saw the inside for myself. The tour of the theatre was led by an actress, a slightly older and frazzled woman, who obviously took her job as a Shakespeare educator very seriously. Although her eloquent use of the English language truly added to the experience, her impatience with anyone in the tour speaking made it awkward for everyone. (Although, I did agree that it was rude.) That being said, although she threw a tantrum every time a person opened their mouth or spoke to one another (it was a very large group of around 50 people) she was very attentive to any questions, helped take photos, and obviously knew her craft. These awkward moments were really the only negative of the tour.
After meeting with the group, we were taken to the pit- the area directly below the stage that functioned as the cheap seats back in Shakespeare’s hey-day. (Although there were of course no seats, standing room only, which remains today.) This was my favorite part of the visit, as standing under such a famous stage really made the imagination run wild. The entire theatre was built without modern tools, using the same designs and materials that were used in the original buildings. There were two Globe Theatres before the current one actually. The first was built in 1599 but was destroyed by fire after an accident involving a cannon on the stage. (I’d hate to be the guy behind that one.) The second was built in 1614, but closed and destroyed by the Puritans- our guide called them ‘the boring people’.
It wasn’t until an American actor by the name of Sam Wanamaker, brought his dream of re-creating The Globe Theatre to London in 1970, that the third theatre was built. He envisioned visitor’s coming to the Globe, and watching the same plays that Shakespeare put on, in the same ways. For that reason, microphones are still not used in the theatre- the incredible acoustics enable an audience to hear a pin drop, even when filled to capacity. These details are still very evident as you take in the stage, from the same type of trap-door that was used back in 1599, to the beautiful murals adorning the stage ceiling. There are lights installed for the night shows, but these do not light up the stage in any fashion- and only function to ensure that the actors and people of the audience can always see one another.
The last part of the tour took us up to the second tier of seating, which gave a wonderful view over the stage and pit. You can really see the fancier seating boxes from this level, which at Shakespeare’s time- was the very point.
It was really incredible to see what Shakespeare’s Globe would have looked like, and I will be able to carry the visit with me everytime I see one of his plays performed in the future. With your ticket (£13.50) to tour The Globe, you can also visit the exhibition which tells you all about the history, present, and future of this London landmark. In January, Shakespeare’s Globe will be opening the brand new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse on the grounds. This tribute to the Shakespeare’s Globe visionary, will enable visitors to watch shows in an indoor, candlelit venue. It looks like it will be very special, and I look forward to attending a show at the venue soon.
I hope you guys are enjoying the Fly Away to London series, much more to come. I am in Bergen, Norway at the moment and enjoying every second of this beautiful country! Have you been to Shakespeare’s Globe? What was your favorite part?
Admission to Shakespeare’s Globe was provided complimentary for the purposes of this review, all opinions are always my own.