On our way home after seeing the excellent performance of A Midsummer Night’s dream, it was decided that another ‘dummy run’ would be a good idea before the actual visit with the children, so that there could be no cause for a wrong turning, or a missed toilet opportunity! When we discussed the best time for doing it again, it turned out that the very next day was the most convenient for all concerned, so the following morning we convened again at the tube station and set off. This time we made notes of any interesting things we passed while the train was still over ground (a marina, several iron girder bridges etc) and then when we arrived in London we noted any possible ’emergency comfort stop’ places on the way to the theatre.
We saw this rather interesting larger than life ‘installation/sculpture’ on a roof beside the Hayward Gallery.
When we arrived at The Globe (having stopped in The National Theatre for a coffee, and perhaps a small piece of cake might just have slipped in there too) we saw a notice for tours of the theatre and an exhibition, which we hadn’t noticed the previous day. So in we went and signed up for the next tour which was leaving in about half an hour, and while we were waiting we browsed round the exhibition. It was fascinating and, not only was there information about the original theatre and the building of this replica, but there were costumes from many of the plays that have been put on, demonstrations of sword fighting and a talk about how costumes are made including dressing up a
victim volunteer from the audience as a milkmaid.
The tour was very interesting and I learned quite a lot, although I have forgotten some of it already, but it was fascinating to listen to at the time. The current theatre stands a little bit away from the site of the original because there is now a Grade II listed building standing where the theatre was and it cannot be touched, so the new theatre had to be built elsewhere. As much as possible it is identical to the original with a few additions necessary to comply with public safety – illuminated Fire Exit signs, fire extinguishers and water sprinklers on the very top of the thatched roof.
It was fascinating to be taken into the theatre before a performance. Although I had been in it the previous day, I had missed a lot of the decoration. Our excellent guide had to really project her voice over all the other groups who were having tours (several French groups again) as she explained it all to us.
The first photo is the view from the yard (that’s what the call the ‘standing room only’ area). The previous day we had seen A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but this day they were prepared for a performance of The Tempest, so the configuration of the stage was slightly different.
The marble pillars are actually painted wood. The beautifully decorated ceiling above the stage represents the heavens, and the area under the stage is called hell.
I was really surprised by how ornate the stage is – particularly the ‘heavens’ – a lot of work went into that.
Little snippets of information that I can remember are;
- it would have been very smelly in the standing area because the people who could afford to buy those tickets couldn’t afford to wash very often!
- plays were usually only performed once (hence the rather basic stage and no scene changes). If it ran to two or three performances it was a big success and if it ran for a week it was hailed as a tremendous success!
- ladies were not allowed to act, so all the parts used to be played by men. Occasionally The Globe puts on all male performances
- in 1613 some stray wadding from a canon set light to the thatched roof and the theatre burned to the ground in a couple of hours. It was rebuilt with a tiled roof.
If you visit the Globe, I would highly recommend taking the tour – it was like stepping back in time.