Reading a mountain of Shakespeare (I'm currently ploughing my way through King Lear) for this semester at University has reminded me of my trip to the Globe theatre in London in 2008. The Globe theatre was rebuilt and completed in 1996 in an attempt to create the likeness of The Rose theatre where many of Shakespeare's plays were staged during his lifetime.
In Shakespeare's time, the mid to late 16th Century, James Burbage first built a permanent playhouse in Shoreditch, to the north-east of the city of London which was used for twenty years until a dispute over the rental of the land arose. This resulted in the dismantling of the theatre and it being transported and rebuilt across the river and renamed The Rose. It was highly successful and for almost 15 years it hosted some of William Shakespeare's most popular and successful plays.
However, in 1613 a mishap with a stage canon during a King Henry VIII meant that the theatre caught fire and was destroyed in its entirety but was again rebuilt and used again until the closure of all theatres in England under England's Puritan Administration in 1644.
More than 300 years later in 1996 this reconstructed theatre was opened and named the Globe, a few hundred metres from the site of the original theatre. This had been a project of Sam Wanamaker, an American actor, director and producer who had dedicated himself to this since his first visit to London more than 40 years previous but sadly died before the completion of the works.
Today the Globe can be visited and is dedicated to the exploration and better understanding of the theatre and the works of Shakespeare. The theatre itself is a large white building with a thatched roof and performances are staged in the open-air building.
|The interior of Shakespeare's Globe|
If you want to have a truly Shakespearean experience whilst watching one of the productions here then I recommend you buy standing tickets for a show. The standing section is where the working classes would have been to enjoy one of the plays and there is often heckling to be heard from this section. It does get a little sore on the feet after a while, especially if you've spent the day exploring the city, so perhaps this area is best for some of his shorter plays?!
In Shakespeare's time the balcony seats would have been only financially available to the upper classes and in today's Globe the seats here have padded cushions, far comfier than standing throughout a performance, and you even have shelter here if it were to rain, a high possibility of this in London!
|The ornate stage roof|
Tours are also available which take you behind the scenes of the Globe and allow you to better understand the workings of the theatre and see the areas where the actors and actresses (although it would have been just actors in Shakespeare's time!) get ready for performances.
For anyone interested in Shakespeare, or in theatre in general, then I highly recommend a trip to Shakespeare's Globe. The performances themselves are a great experience, I was lucky enough to see A Midsummer Night's Dream here in 2008 and it was a great play with great actors, and it is far easier to follow when you see it performed than trying to read the plays in print!