It occurred to me how special it is watching Romeo and Juliet at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre as I stood behind a group of excitable American teenagers on an overseas trip.
We’re very lucky, us English folk, to share our birthplace with Shakespeare.
Granted, it doesn’t feel that way when you’re 14 years old reading Richard III aloud in English for the 4th lesson in a row. But when you’re 24 and studied Drama for about 11 years of your life… He’s like the OG of… everything you’ve ever studied, read and performed.
The Drama geeks and Theatre nerds in front of me had travelled thousands of miles to experience Shakespeare in the way his plays were meant to be experienced. In the round, with no roof, at the Globe Theatre. And that’s a pretty special thing to experience.
I felt the weight of what this means to a lot of people in April 2017. This is when I finally visited Shakespeare’s Globe for the first time. I know this sounds way too over the top and dramatic, but heck, what else do you expect from a former Drama nerd?!
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
So, what’s the big deal about Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre?
Okay, I’ll get it out of the way now and say that the Shakespeare’s Globe that is standing today is not the original Globe Theatre. Not by a long shot. I know, it’s a bit disappointing. But it’s also totally understandable considering it’s in such good condition.
That’s because the building was completed in 1996. I’m technically older than Shakespeare’s Globe.
The mission to rebuild Shakespeare’s Globe was spearheaded by American actor and director Sam Wanamaker (father to actress Zoë Wanamaker) after his first visit to London in 1949. It’s pretty sad that he spent 44 years researching the original building, founding the Globe Trust, only to die in 1993. Three years before the project was completed.
Top tip: It’s a common misconception that you have to stand in the pits like peasants would have done back in the day and that seats are super expensive. This isn’t the case at all! There’s no way I was standing for the whole performance. Shakespeare plays are LONG. My ticket was only £5-£8 more than a standing ticket. And for a three-hour long play, that’s worth it.
Lol, if you don’t know who Shakespeare is, I would guess you’re not from the Western world or you’ve not yet finished High School.
Just a quick recap: William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-Upon-Avon in 1564. He spent most of his life working in London as an actor and playwright. He wrote roughly three plays a year for Lord Chamberlain’s Men, an acting company, and had shares in a little theatre called The Globe. And he sometimes acted in plays written by other playwrights. He was a real multi-faceted, talented and prolific hellova guy.
The Globe Theatre was built in 1599 in Southwark, near a competing theatre called The Rose. It ran successfully for 14 years until a mishap with a stage cannon meant the whole thing went down in flames. The thatched roof had a lot to do with that. The theatre was rebuilt with a tiled roof until it was closed down by new Puritan laws in 1642 and demolished in 1644.
So, the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre we have today is actually the third incarnation. It’s built a few hundred feet away from the original.
Personally, I don’t think it’s so much the origins of the theatre itself that matters – though of course, the authenticity of the Globe Theatre that stands today is important – but what it represents.
It’s a wonderful homage to Shakespeare and helps keep his work alive. In an age where the Arts seem less and less important to the Government, we can hope that the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre Trust will be here for a very long time.
How to get there from elsewhere in London
The Globe Theatre is in a super convenient location, right on the River Thames in Southwark. It’s next door to the Tate Modern Art Gallery and across the Millenium Bridge from St Paul’s Cathedral. You could have a lovely day out in just this small portion of Central London!
The nearest Underground stations are Borough (12-minute walk, Northern line), Southwark (13-minute walk, Jubilee line) and London Bridge (13-minute walk, Jubilee and Northern lines). Even Waterloo Station isn’t too far away (20-minute walk, Bakerloo, Jubilee and Northern lines).
That’s not to mention the other stops across the river. The Globe Theatre is so well connected!
Top tip: Dress warm and bring something soft to sit on! The theatre has a big hole in the roof to make use of the natural light. So, depending on the time of year, wear your big coat and don’t forget gloves and a hat. A blanket isn’t a bad shout either. I went in April and it was quite mild so I only needed to wear a few layers.
And, if you do get too hot and need to take your coat off, you can sit on it! The seats are just wooden benches, so if you don’t bring a cushion you can expect a numb bum. They are available to rent, but I would bring your own if you can.
As you can see from the picture below, I paid £25 for my ticket with a restricted view, so they’re a little bit pricey but not West End prices.
It’s also very important to book as far in advance as possible. Let me say that again.
BOOK AS FAR IN ADVANCE AS POSSIBLE!!!
The best/cheapest seats get booked up super fast, especially if it’s a popular play. I saw Romeo and Juliet in April and I booked my tickets AS SOON as the season went on sale in January. You can sign up for their newsletter to be alerted when a new season goes on sale.
I’m not saying they sell out in minutes, I’m just saying you’ll be disappointed if you wait a few weeks before.
It’s good to know that Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre doesn’t just programme Shakespeare plays. Their annual programme features a host of different theatre companies and genres.
I think this is pretty cool because it seems elitist for The Globe just stick to Shakespeare plays. That must get dull fast. By widening the net, more people will hopefully see performances they wouldn’t have sought out otherwise.
However… I don’t plan on going back to watch anything at Shakespeare’s Globe anytime soon. So if you’re like me, I understand you want that original experience. Even though the production of Romeo & Juliet I saw was modern and edgy and other buzzwords, it was the experience I wanted. A Shakespeare play on Shakespeare’s stage!
What more could a Drama geek possibly need?!
That was my little handy guide to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre after my visit in April 2017. Have you ever been to the Globe Theatre? Would you like to? Let me know in the comments below!