About Shakespeare's Globe
In 1613, the original Globe Theatre, home to William Shakespeare's acting troupe, burned down after a dodgy special effect set fire to the roof of the much-loved Elizabethan playhouse. But in 1997, the theatre made the mother of all comebacks after it was rebuilt as Shakespeare’s Globe. Home to daily tours, thrillingly full-blooded six-month seasons of Shakespeare, plus reliably bawdy new writing, the building is a tourist destination in its own right. With hundreds of standing tickets per production costing just £5 each, Shakespeare’s Globe is not only one of London’s most iconic theatres, but also one of its most accessible. As of 2014, the theatre's huge open-air auditorium has been joined by the candlelit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, an intimate, strikingly beautiful indoor space that opens during the months the main theatre is shut.
Globe exhibition and theatre tour
If you'd like to get a feel for the Globe without grappling with any actual plays, get a ticket for one of the half-hourly guided theatre tours, on which you'll hear sixteenth century stories about the original venue, find out how it was reconstructed in the 90s, and hear about how it functions today. Remember that there's no roof, so raincoats are a good idea.
If you do get drenched, seek refuge afterwards in the Globe exhibition (which is included in the tour ticket price) and learn about how Shakespeare was likely to have lived while he was in London. There's no need to book in advance, just buy tickets when you get there, but try to avoid visiting in peak times if you don't want to have to wait around too long. More details can be found on the Globe's website.
What's on at the Globe's main house?
The final show in Shakespeare's Globe's 2015 season is this new piece from Jessica Swale, which follows her 'Blue Stockings' and 'Thomas Tallis' at the Globe in 2013 and 2014. This is, of course, a play about theatrical charmer and mistress of Charles II, Nell Gwynn. The life of the Restoration actress, from her time as an orange seller to starring onstage and her life as the King's escort, helps to tell the tale of theatre in the 17th century. Exact dates and times TBC.
Shakespeare's misguided monarch King Richard II returns to London in 2015 as part of Dominic Dromgoole's final season heading up Shakespeare's Globe. Simon Godwin directs 'Richard II, which follows the downfall of the fickle king in the final two years of his life as Henry Bolingbroke forces him off the throne. Dates and times TBC.
Aeschylus's trilogy of bloody (as in gruesome) Greek tragedies, where an estranged son must avenge his father's death at the hands of his mother, is staged as part of Dominic Dromgoole's final season at the theatre. Adele Thomas directs this modern distillation of all three plays of 'The Oresteia' which shows a move from the individual blood vendetta to the rule of law, fair trial and punishment. Exact dates and times TBC.
What's on at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse?
Shakespeare's ancient Britain play about Celtic king Cunobeline (or Cymbeline, here) whose daughter secretly marries and causes all sorts of trouble. It's one of the shows in current artistic director Dominic Dromgoole's last season, which, in a first, has Shakespeare performed in the inside Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. Cast and creative details and exact times and dates TBC.
Ellen Terry with Eileen Atkins
'Cranford' and 'Gosford Park' star Eileen Atkins returns to Shakespeare's Globe with this a tour through some of Shakespeare's most interesting women as they were interpreted by leading nineteenth century Shakespearen actress Ellen Terry. The show is performed in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse as part of Dominic Dromgoole's final season as artistic director. Times TBC.
Dominic Dromgoole opens his final season in charge of Shakespeare's Globe with a series of the Bard's plays staged in the indoor Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. First up is a production of 'Pericles' the play generally accepted as being by both Shakespeare and George Wilkins where the titular hero has to escape assassination after discovering incest at the heart of the kingdom of Antioch. The piece features all the usual mistaken identities, marriages and shipwrecks. Exact dates and times TBC.
How fitting: 'The Tempest', Shakespeare's farewell to the stage, where he gets the magician Prospero to break his staff and give up magic, will be current Shakespeare's Globe boss Dominic Dromgoole's final directing job as the man in charge. 'The Tempest' itself is a total delight, telling of a shipwrecked boat which throws its contents on to a special island filled with fairies and spirits. Exact cast, dates and times TBC.
Shakespeare plays in London
Whether you're planning a trip to Shakespeare's iconic Globe theatre or a spot of Shakespearean drama elsewhere in London, here's where to watch the best plays by the Bard in London.
A tour of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
‘I’m told it would take a flamethrower to even char the walls,’ says Shakespeare’s Globe artistic director Dominic Dromgoole, proudly. We’re standing in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, London’s newest, sexiest theatre. Named after the Globe’s late founder, it is the intimate indoor sibling to the boisterous open-air Globe Theatre. It is also made entirely out of wood and lit entirely by candles, but apparently its exquisitely decorated oak frame can withstand the fieriest of conflagrations. That’s good: it was a fire that did for the original, Elizabethan Globe. What the first Globe didn’t have was a bijou indoor venue. But Shakespeare and his King’s Men theatre troupe did have one just down the road, on which the Wanamaker is modelled. ‘They wanted to get into an indoor theatre much earlier than they in fact did,’ says Dromgoole, the sweary showman whose colourful tenure has been such a success for the Globe. ‘They bought the Blackfriars [a former priory] in 1592, but they were told to f**k off when they tried to do plays because there were lots of puritans around who complained about the noise. So they only finally moved there in 1609.’By that time Elizabeth’s golden age was over and the unpopular James I had the throne. Shakespeare’s plays got darker and weirder, and the new generation of Jacobean playwrights started writing claustrophobic, blood-soaked revenge tragedies for candlelit indoor spaces. Foremost is John Webster’s bleak 1612 masterpiece ‘The Duchess of Malfi’. It’