I have been away for a couple of months and have spent a lot of that time touring. I was recently lucky enough to lead EF’s AP English Literature trip, a really great tour which not only offers the possibility to visit Liverpool and Chester, but also includes Rydal Mount in the Lake District, Haworth (Brontë country), and the fabulous cities of York and Bath as well as Stratford-upon-Avon – and all that happens before you descend on the capital. During our time in London, we had an included night of theatre at the Globe. For some time now, when questioned by somebody from the United States about the logic of an English expression, or indeed the veracity of it, I have been able to give a simple retort: “this island belongs to me because Sycorax, my mother, left it to me.” Not a helpful answer, I admit, and one prone to create even more blank looks, but I mention it because I finally got to take a group to see the play from which that quote originates. I will leave it to you to work it out what Shakespeare play that is.
Shakespeare’s’ Globe is a marvelous and faithful reconstruction on the South Bank, the result of the vision and determination of film director Sam Wanamaker, who visited London in the 1960s and was genuinely surprised to discover that there was no fitting memorial to Shakespeare anywhere in London. Based upon the original 16th century building, it is a fabulous place to watch a production during the summer season. You can choose to be a groundling and stand in the pit under open skies, or you can opt for the relative luxury of a seat – there’s not a bad view to be had. In the original theatre, visitors would put coins in a box, the amount depending on where in the theatre they chose to watch the performance. These boxes would then be collected, taken to an office, and the money counted. Now, think about where you go to get your ticket for a show today.
Modern day productions remain faithful to the original atmosphere. The cast will often emerge from amongst the groundlings, actors use the full reach of the stage, chatter amongst the audience is not shushed (indeed, Shakespeare might well be astonished to see how quiet a theatre audience is today) and sometimes the only change in four hundred years seems to be the regular low drone of another plane making its way to or from Heathrow airport. It’s a tremendous space to enjoy some superb entertainment, and the rest of the city seems to melt away in the atmosphere created. While watching Shakespeare generally requires effort and isn’t always rewarding, an evening at the Globe, with tickets available from as little as $10 (if you’re lucky and quick), is a pretty good place to try it out. If you are not fortunate enough to be in London during the season, then a visit to the Globe exhibition and a tour of the theatre is definitely recommended.