Shakespeare’s original Globe Theatre burned to the ground on June 29, 1613. It was rebuilt in 1614 and operated until about 1642, when the Puritan movement in England closed theatres, and demolished in 1644. The American actor and producer Sam Wanamaker organized a group that worked tirelessly for decades to build a replica, based on drawings and best guesses. Construction had begun when Mr. Wanamaker died in 1993; performances began in 1997.
I finally made it to the Globe this month, and I’ll go again every chance I get. Lately I am rediscovering London, after avoiding the city for years because of the expense, the crowds, the pollution, and on and on. I’ve been tootling around the English and Welsh countryside instead, loving the small towns and villages and historic homes. But London is still glorious.
I saw a wonderful production of Shakespeare’s “A Misdummer Night’s Dream.” Of course, photos are not allowed during performance, and I would not want them to be. But I did snap some photos before the performance began. The “rude mechanicals” were Globe staff members in this production, and they regaled the audience with jokes and instructions before the show got underway.
My vantage point was from the uppermost gallery, with a roof and wooden benches–still cheap as theatre tickets go, but not as cheap as the “groundlings” places at 5 pounds apiece. It’s standing room down there, as it was in Shakespeare’s time, and there’s no shelter from the rain. It rains a lot in London. No umbrellas are allowed, but people wore raincoats and ponchos, and obviously had a good time. The rain was only on and off, and not many people left during intermission. It looked like a lot of fun down there. I would do it.
But I was glad enough to have a thatched roof over my head, a plain wooden bench and the cushion which I hired for a couple of pounds extra. After a day chasing around London and standing in museums, the old dogs were barking.
The setting on the Thames, a few hundred yards from the site of the original Globe, is part of the revitalised South Bank nightlife area. It’s lively and fun and feels perfectly safe, at least along the river walk. St. Paul’s Cathedral, which earlier that day held a Service of Thanksgiving for the 90th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II, looms majestically across the Thames.
Outside of London (tootling around in a rental car) we took in some other Shakespeare sights, including my favorite, Ann Hathaway’s Cottage in Stratford-upon-Avon. Long live the Bard!