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?
As You Like It
Rising star director Blanche McIntyre returns to Shakespeare's Globe in 2015 to direct the Bard's pastoral comedy 'As You Like It'. McIntyre directed a chaotic and joyfully funny 'Comedy of Errors' last year at the Globe, and 'As You Like It' covers similarly inane goings-on. It's fun though and features some of Shakespeare's most loved speeches. It features as part of Dominic Dromgoole's final season as boss of the Globe. McIntyre's recent productions include the revived 'Accolade' at the St James Theatre, which marked her out as one to watch when it was first staged in 2011. Times and dates TBC.
It has taken two artistic directors 18 years, but by 2015 Shakespeare's Globe will have finally stages all of the Bard's plays. The final one, a notoriously under-performed piece is 'King John', the Bard's history play about the king of England who ruled between 1199 and 1216. The son of Henry II, King John was a big player in producing the Magna Carta in 1215. Next year is the 800th anniversary of the document, which is part of the reason why Dominic Dromgoole has decided to stage it for his final season as artistic director. The play itself documents King John's tussles with English nobles and oversees kings contesting his right to the throne. The show is a touring production, in collaboration with Royal & Derngate theatre and visits the beautiful old Temple Church before arriving at the Globe. James Dacre directs. Exact times and dates TBC.
Measure for Measure
Exiting artistic director Dominic Dromgoole directs Shakespeare's Vienna-set play, which fits neatly into his final season's theme of 'Justice and Mercy'. When the city's duke goes on a diplomatic mission, he leaves the reins in the hands of judge Angelo, who then struggles to keep control of Vienna's bawdy brothels and loose morals. When a good nun pleads Angelo to help her brother, it stirs some lusty urges. Dates and times TBC.
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 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’