Puppydog tails — 29 September 2013

Nothing quite prepares you for what must be one of the greatest experiences in London: you’ve enjoyed a pre-theatre drink looking across the Thames at Wren’s masterpiece, itself a view not seen outside any other London venue.

Entering a bland modern foyer and milling around, it has the same buzz of anticipation all theatre audiences experience before curtain up.

The usher examines your ticket as you approach the auditorium, if that is the right word, and you enter one of London’s most amazing spaces. A perfect circle about 100ft in diameter gives an immediate sense of intimacy. You might be sharing this space with 1,500 other theatre-goers, but you feel almost part of the performance.

Three tiers of wooden benches tower above you giving height to this amazing structure, and on the roof, thatch, not seen on any other building in the capital since The Great Fire.

For those theatregoers used to the Edwardian proscenium arch with the stage below and the audience kept at a safe distance, watching a production at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is a truly memorable experience.

GlobePit_&_Main_stage For the Globe has a thrust stage that projects into a circular yard where for £10 ‘groundlings’ can stand and watch the performance, but a word of warning here, the roof only covers the stage and the seating areas. So if it rains, and well you are in London, as a groundling you get wet.

If you splash out for the dearer seats invest in a cushion, they can be hired before the performance to protect one’s posterior from the unforgiving oak benches.

Performances are designed to replicate Elizabethan theatre, staged often during daylight hours, no microphones, speakers or amplification, with music played on period instruments.

The entire building has been constructed from English oak using traditional joints making it an authentic 16th century timber-framed building.

There are some nods to modernity, the thatched roof is protected with fire retardant and sprinklers (it’s how the last Globe burnt down), the pit where you stand as a groundling is concrete unlike in the 16th century where compressed earth strewn with rotting reeds was beneath your feet. The capacity of the modern Globe has been reduced by 50 per cent with a nod to health and safety.

Last year the World Shakespeare Festival as part of the Cultural Olympiad celebrated London 2012, all of Shakespeare’s 38 plays were performed in 38 different languages, at the Globe Theatre, next year we celebrate the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth and in 2016 the 400th of his death. Let’s just hope we don’t burn down the Globe again.

This article has been written to recognise the author’s contribution to travel and tourism by
Avis Car Hire on the A-List Awards 2013.

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