Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Drever on December 26, 2005

We had a guided tour of the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, which we wouldn’t have missed for the world. That the theatre is here at all is all down to Sam Wanamaker, an aspiring actor. He worked for 20 years until his death to raise funds to re-create the theatre. Finally, in 1997, a replica of the theatre built in 1599 but burnt down in 1613 opened in Bankside as close to the original site as possible. Shakespeare chose this area because it was outside the jurisdiction and controls of London.
The Theatre is now a centre for the study of the great bard and a celebration of his life and works. Craftsmen used the material and techniques used in building the original in Elizabethan times. The green oak timbers provide a link back to Shakespeare's time, as some were then saplings. Only joints cut into the timber and wooden pegs hold them together. Lime, sand, and goat's hair plaster face up the walls and the roof is thatched.

The new Globe isn't an exact replica, seating 1,500 on wooden benches in the ‘bays’ with 500 ‘groundlings’ standing and not the 3,000 who originally squeezed in. Its thatched roof treated with a fire retardant won’t catch fire. A spark from a cannon fired during a performance ignited the thatch on the original and burned the theatre to the ground. A boy curious about the spikes now arranged along the roof of the building wondered if they were for the heads of actors who forgot their lines as he had seen spikes at the Tower of London formerly used for mounting severed heads. The Globe spikes are more mundane being water sprinklers!

The open-air Globe Theatre offers performances only during the summer season from mid-May to mid-September. Performances take place at 2pm as in the original theatre but with flood lighting added can now take also place in the evenings. As in Shakespeare's day the ‘groundlings’ surround the stage and can make their feelings about the performance crystal clear to the actors. With few props or furniture and no theatrical lighting or scenery, clothes are the Globe’s chief visual effect. These have to withstand the closest scrutiny from the audience.

The Shakespeare's Globe Exhibition housed in the Under Globe offers a comprehensive coverage of the Elizabethan theatre construction and its dramas. On display are clothes such as those worn in The Tempest. Other exhibits give a glimpse of the many crafts used in making the actors clothes and in cleaning and preserving them. Also there are occasional displays and workshops, some aimed at children.

When we visited a fair to commemorate the Great Frost Fair of 1621 held on the frozen waters of the Thames close to the Globe was in progress. A miniature of the actual 1621 Fair itself showed how it must have looked.

OPEN: Exhibition and viewing daily 10am-5pm. Tube: Mansion House, then walk across the Millennium Bridge.
Shakespeare's Globe
21 New Globe Walk, Bankside
London, England, SE1 9DT
+44 20 7902 1400

© LP 2000-2009