This last weekend, my family and I made a special trip over to London to visit the Shakespeare Globe Theatre (there was also something happening with Brexit that was splashed all over the news... but that was a bit of a sideshow, at least the let us cross the border!). Anyway, for those who don't know, The Globe Theatre is a modern reconstruction of the original Globe Theatre where a great majority of Shakespeare's plays made their debut (and most of their runs!).
The original theatre was built in 1599, but was destroyed by fire and then rebuilt before being again demolished. This modern recreation was based upon plans from 1599, and although it can't be considered to be an exact replica, it is considered to be pretty damn close. Thankfully, the fire safety is much improved.
The Theatre is one that was made quite famous in the 1998 film "Shakespeare in Love", however it appears that the film did not use this particular theatre, but one that was similar called the Rose Theatre.
Anyway, we were here as my wife's brother (my brother in law) had a play here... marking his debut on the famed Globe stage. Granted, it as part of his study at the port-graduate course in Glasgow... but the opportunity to spend the month rehearsing on this famed stage, and then to take part in several performances over the week is nothing short of life-changing!
Something that I didn't know, but apparently my wife did... was the fact that the theatre is open air... there is a large overhang over the stage to shield the actors and the actual stage, but the rest of the building is open to the night sky! It's a nice feeling actually... it wasn't raining on the night that we went, and the temperature wasn't too cold (although, we still needed coats...)... so it was nice to have fresh air and the occasional breeze coming in.
It is a funny sight to see the tops of a construction crane just peeking over the lip of the building in the distance though...
Despite the fact that the theatre is open air, the construction is such that the outside noise if incredibly muted... and for an outdoor venue, you can hear quite well the actors on stage without any artificial amplification. The curved shapes and wooden construction really does help with the projection of the actor's voices. However, my brother in law mentioned that the theatre really amplify's certain frequencies better than others (also depending on where you are on stage...), he said it took him a week or so to get the hang of it.... but once you do, you can really play the acoustics in your favour. It was interesting to hear the various members of the cast do this... it was quite apparent that some had mastered the trick, whilst others were struggling against the acoustic.
That said, most of the cast were readily understandable from the back of the theatre... mostly if things were misunderstood, it was mostly due to the tempo of the speech rather than problems with projection.
The overhang of the stage was decorated with beautiful murals that you can't really see when watching the play... and at the time (I'm not sure if they are interchangable for different scenes) it was displaying a stylised version of the Zodiac.
The best place to experience the play is in the mosh pit... aka, the standing room area directly in the fore of the stage. However, from there you are looking up at quite an angle... but the sound quality is much better.... plus, if it is raining you are going to get wet! So, some definite advantages and disadvantages...
We ended up sitting in the stall seating
because I'm lazy because we had young kids and we had just run in from the airport! Still, the hard wood seats were more comfortable and spacious than you would expect! However, you do suffer from some blocked sight lines due to the construction pillars that hold the building up!
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The theatre is nestled behind a more modern front which serves as a ticketing, canteen and shop front. It's much less interesting in the front, but it is where all the essential and administrative parts of the Theatre are housed.
This visit wasn't our first trip to the Globe, but it was definitely the first time (and hopefully not the last...) that we knew someone on stage! The Theatre is pretty damn amazing, and although Shakespeare theatre can be a touch difficult at times, I did find that I was enjoying the play quite a bit.
If you are in London, you definitely have to take some time away from the musicals and plays of the contemporary era and visit a play in this important replica of an important landmark in Western history.
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