I’ve mentioned before that I’m partial to the South Bank as it is very pedestrian friendly and I love the view (and the Lion!) The Bankside area of the South Bank, also known as the Cultural Quarter, is a slightly quieter part of that side of the Thames, right near London Bridge. It boasts such London gems as the Tate Modern, Borough Market*, and a bucket list item for this theatre nerd: Shakespeare’s Globe. I was so excited to be able to visit this wonderful place back in June!
*Side Note – I need to go back to the Borough Market as I’d had to rush through on my way to the Globe. It is a fresh produce and slow food market that smelled and looked amazing!
I was a drama brat in high school and it’s taken me a shamefully long time to tick the Globe off my bucket list – and really, only half a check mark, because I only had time to go on the tour – not for a show. My drama teacher passed away a few years ago, and when I got to the Globe, I could hear him in my mind saying “finally!”
Unlike my tour with the Britannia in Edinburgh, a couple of weeks later I miraculously got myself organized enough to arrive for the first tour of the day. My group’s guide was a twinkle-eyed, Mr. Doolittle-like thespian named Mick. Knowingly corny jokes, knowledge, timing, and a good spirit are the hallmarks of any tour guide. As an actor, Mick should and does have all of this in spades.
Mick took us on a wandering lesson of the theatre’s past, present, and future. While I was listening to him, I couldn’t help but feel awed, sitting on the wooden seats in the polygonal theatre that make up the space. Since it first opened in 1599, a short distance away from where it is now (and burned down, got taken down, and all kinds of other happenings), through to its current iteration (opened in 1997, after the incredibly hard work of a gentleman named Sam Wannamaker and the Shakespeare’s Globe Trust), there is an incredible amount of history associated with this theatre. Aside from shaping modern theatre as we know it today and the obvious Shakespearean plays, etc., two standout historical facts include:
- Acting became legal in 1574
- In the 1600s women were finally allowed to play female roles that, up until then, had been played by pretty teenage boys (though I’m sure there were at least a few Shakespeare in Love scenarios.
These two points make me reflect a bit on the current goings on in the world. Have we progressed, or have we regressed? But I digress…
Something cool about the open-air Globe is that they only use natural lighting and voice projection (no mics!) when performing the works of the Bard of Avon — talk about authenticity! The evening performances use white light, but that’s it for modern amenities. Performances of newer plays use lighting and audio, but when I go back, I plan to experience Shakespeare unplugged. (All performances in the Sam Wannamaker Playhouse are lit by candlelight, as they were back in Elizabethan times.)
When you’re done with the guided tour, make sure you take advantage of the audio tour that is included in the price of admission. If you missed any info on the walk, you’ll get it all in the very thoughtfully put together exhibition that features an impressive timeline, Shakespeare’s will, and some very beautiful costumes, among other interesting things.
I can’t find it right now, but I had taken a short video of some students taking sword fighting lessons in the middle of the exhibition hall. It warmed my heart, especially seeing the girls rock it. The Globe is very active in theatre education (go brush up your Shakespeare!), something we need more of, in general! Are you listening, people who think cutting out arts funding is the answer? It’s NOT.
So a half-check on this bucket list item. But progress, nonetheless.
What’s on your bucket list?
Thank you to Shakespeare’s Globe for providing me with a ticket for the tour and exhibition. As always, opinions are my own.
I usually add a quote to the bottom of all my posts, but I couldn’t choose one. So I leave you with the clever Quoting Shakespeare poster by Bernard Levin. (Click below to enlarge.)