In London, theatre isn’t just about the West End spectacles, both classic and new. Those are amazing and fun, to be sure. But if you also love the works of a certain playwright who existed long before Webber, Sondheim, Rodgers & Hammerstein, etc, head over to the Globe Theatre at South Bank.
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is a treat for theatre-goers who love the classic works from the Bard, as well as anything about the Elizabethan era. For instance, the term ‘box office’ originated with the Globe Theatre. The nobility were able to afford the seating above the stage, away from the commoners, aka ‘groundlings,’ or ‘stinkards.’ The commoners only paid 1 penny for admission, and each person’s penny was put into a box at the entrance to the theatre.
Ironically, it was the commoners who had a much better view of the stage. Thanks to the way the theatre is held up by pillars all the way round, the nobility actually had something of an obscured view, depending on where they were sitting. So, could it be that they were paying to be seated away from the commoners, and not so much paying for better visibility, even though those seats were cushioned?
Interestingly enough, in the 20th and 21st century, we’ve seen front-row theatre seats being priced at premium levels, while the seats further away from the stage are cheaper.
A Guide to A Globe Theatre Experience
If you’ve included plans for a show at the Globe, you’ll want to keep in mind the following:
- The entirety of the Globe Theatre area actually consists of two main performance spaces: the outdoor Globe, and the candlelit indoor space, called the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. Indoor events for the winter are held in the Wanamaker space, and outdoor summer events are often held in the Globe area.
- The Globe gets no funding from the government, so when you purchase your tickets, it’s a great idea to ‘top up’ the ticket price with an extra donation amount so the theatre can continue its efforts to bring Shakespeare to all people.
- Seats in the Sam Wanamaker playhouse are priced according to visibility. The five-pound price is for the ‘Yard,’ or standing, audience which has the closer experience. Seat prices in the 20 to 45-pound range are for the lower, middle and upper galleries. This said, seating plans vary with each performance, so you’ll want to contact the box office staff for more information.
- Under-18’s get 3 pounds off normal admission, and there is a disabled patrons’ access scheme available.
There is, of course, more to the Globe than just performances. There are events for educational purposes, which include lectures and talks, college courses, including a MA in Shakespeare Studies, as well as a playground for kids, among other things.
So much is on offer for learning more about Shakespeare that it’s difficult to take it all in at once, and each season will always be a bit different. This year, for the summer, the theme is ‘Summer of Love,’ so there will be quite a few plays featuring the topic of love, both in Shakespeare’s plays and other works.
Additionally, if you don’t quite fancy attending a play in the summer daytime heat, or you’re simply a night owl, you can always attend something via the Globe’s Midnight Matinees, using what else but a quote from the Bard as inspiration for this aspect of the Globe’s Shakespearean offerings.
The West End is glamourous, to be sure, but it would not even exist were it not for the longstanding tradition of Shakespearean plays that span all manner of human emotion, from comedy to tragedy and everything in between.