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Shakespeare's Globe

  • Theatre
  • South Bank
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  1. Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (© Manuel Harlan)
    © Manuel Harlan
  2. Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (© John Wildgood)
    © John Wildgood
  3. Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (© John Wildgoose)
    © John Wildgoose

Time Out says

First-class theatre in a lovingly recreated Elizabethan setting

Shakespeare’s Globe reopens in May 2021 with a socially distanced season in which the groundlings will be seated.

Built in 1599 and destroyed by fire in 1613, the original Globe Theatre was at the heart of London’s seedy South London entertainment district in William Shakespeare’s time. Here, productions were put on by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, who included in their company old Bill himself.

Fast forward to 1997, when, following a decades-long campaign run by the late American actor Sam Wanamaker, Shakespeare's famous wooden 'O' was recreated near its original site, using timber, thatch, and immaculately researched Elizabethan detail. You can get to grips with this theatre's history at its daytime tours, but there's a lot to be said for experiencing it in action. The venue's popular 'groundling' tickets invite punters to stand in front of the stage for just £5, or there's an option to get a more comfy view of the action from galleried bench seating. This outdoor space is closed in winter. But more recently, Shakespeare's Globe added the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse – a candlelit indoor theatre within the Globe’s building, which presents plays in a traditional Jacobean setting.

Artistically, there’s a commitment to the Bard, but within that it’s one of London’s liveliest and occasionally most controversial theatres.

Founding artistic director Mark Rylance led from the front: one of the world’s great actors, he still returns now and again. Just don’t ask him about whether he thought Shakespeare wrote all his own plays. 

Dominic Dromgoole, the longest serving artistic director, had a reputation for being somewhat combatitive, but ushered in something of a golden age for the theatre, and oversaw the completion of the indoor Sam Wanamaker Playhouse that allowed programming to go year round.

Emma Rice brought two scintillatingly good seasons of work to the Globe before she was forced out by the theatre's board, who were annoyed at her propensity for using amplified light and sound in productions. They wanted to restrict her; she walked.

The current artistic director is Michelle Terry. An actor-manager in the Rylance mould, she has focussed her efforts on diversity and actor-friendliness, and has already had her first hit with new feminist play 'Emilia', a story of Shakespeare's 'Dark Lady' which landed a West End transfer. 

Written by
Time Out editors


New Globe Walk
Tube: Blackfriars/Mansion House/London Bridge
Exhibition and tour: £15, £13.50 60-plus, £12.50 students, £9 under-16s, free under-fives, £41 family.
Opening hours:
Globe Exhibition and Tour daily 9am–5pm. Closed Dec 24 and 25. (Check in advance for dates when the tour is not available.)
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What’s on

‘Much Ado About Nothing’ review

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Shakespeare

Much like your average British spring, ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ is a tale of dark clouds as well as sunshine. But Lucy Bailey’s admirably clear production looks on the bright side of Shakespeare’s play, using a post-war Italian setting to drench its romances in light and warmth.In Joanna Parker’s playful design, the columns of Shakespeare’s Globe are wrapped with ivy, its boards are coated with cheery astroturf, and there's even an elaborate fountain that underscores the action with the gentle babble of water. It’s the perfect arena for the play’s famous ‘gulling’ scenes, where first Benedick (Ralph Davies) and then Beatrice (Lucy Phelps) is tricked into believing the other is in love with them. An eavesdropping Benedick scales the foliage-covered balcony as his feet barely escape the gardener’s snipping shears, while Beatrice ends up tangled in a badminton net, a sprinkler soaking her skirt. Davies and Phelps are both adept physical comedians, with chemistry that's as strong as their pratfalling skills, but the play’s chaos doesn't end with them. The masked ball becomes a woodland romp where the cast wear surreal wicker animal heads, and dinner on the lawn breaks down into a messy food fight.After all this silliness, the second act’s sickly lurch into tragedy comes as a shock. Katy Stephens makes a compelling gender-swapped Leonata, delivering an agonisingly painful rejection of her daughter Hero (Nadi Kemp-Sayfi), who's publicly shamed for her supposed infidelity. These sce

‘Henry VIII’ review

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Shakespeare

Let’s be honest: it’s a red flag when the most famous English writer of all time has a play about one of the most obsessed-over eras of English history and it almost never actually gets staged. Covering vaguely the same period of time as Hilary Mantel’s much better ‘Wolf Hall’, ‘Henry VIII’ by Shakespeare plus collaborator John Fletcher packs in such greatest historical hits as the rise and fall of Cardinal Wolsey, Henry’s divorce from Katherine of Aragon, his wooing of Anne Boleyn (here ‘Anne Bullen’) and his schism from the Catholic Church.  The problem is that when it was written, these events were still recent history. ‘Henry VIII’ is a propaganda play of sorts, offering a whitewashed account of some of the more tumultuous events in the life of the dad of the (relatively) recently deceased Queen Elizabeth. Shakespeare actually wrote some great propaganda plays. But this is not one of them: it lacks the camp malevolence of ‘Richard III’, or the devastating human insight of ‘Richard II’. Productions of ‘Henry VIII’ have traditionally leant upon dazzling spectacle over psychological depth, and indeed the play’s biggest claim to fame is that a malfunctioning cannon special effect in a 1613 production burnt down the original Globe. It’s reasonable, then, that director Amy Hodge and playwright Hannah Khalil have opted for a wilfully revisionist revival. Hodge all but directs it as a comedy, with Adam Gillen’s Henry a petulant, childlike oddball who in one retina-searingly memor

‘King Lear’ review

  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Shakespeare

I’m no authority on Helena Kaut-Howson’s 1997 production of ‘King Lear’, which starred the singular Kathryn Hunter as Shakespeare’s mad old king. But by all accounts it went down pretty well, playing the Young Vic, the Haymarket and an international tour. As a minimum it was surely better than this rambling and disorganised production that reunites play, director, star and designer Paweł Dobrzycki 25 years on.  These things are subjective, of course, but it’s never a great sign when the programme includes a note flagging up the fact that the director was indisposed for the last two weeks of rehearsals – you surely wouldn’t mention it if you didn’t think it affected the production.  This time, Hunter plays Lear as a creepy-looking imp with long white hair and an on-off relationship with a wheelchair. She is a brilliant and original actor, superb in the Almeida’s ‘The Chairs’ earlier this year. But I struggled to get a handle on her Lear: small, petulant and puckish, she gives him the air of an old gangster entering the outer fringes of senility. But it feels like a one-note performance - her sad little king feels interesting but perfunctory, steering well away from the operatic extremes of rage, madness and grief required to hold Shakespeare’s elemental ramble of a play together. When Lear goes ‘mad’, Hunter plays him much the same as before. I didn’t feel for him and I wasn’t sure if I was even meant to. It doesn’t help that Hunter's natural inclination towards clowning overl

‘Julius Caesar’ review

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Shakespeare

Whether it’s down to a post-pandemic budget squeeze or the desire to freshen up a formula, the Globe has changed its touring policy for 2022. Instead of one company taking a rep of three shows out on the road, this year it’s just the one: ‘Julius Caesar’, a comparatively lesser-spotted Shakespeare play on Britain’s ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’-heavy outdoor summer stages. A single play also means that Diane Page’s production gets a lot more attention for its between tour dates run at the Globe, with a national press night and everything. Inevitably you need to be slightly indulgent of a show built to tour: with a cast of just eight tackling innumerable roles and not much in the way of a set budget, ‘Caesar’ is a much more stripped-down affair than anything else you’ll see here this season.  Nonetheless: Page makes the most of what she has, and directs a really barrelling first half that entertains from the off, when cast member Omar Bynon – taking on the role of a sort of miscellaneous member of the hoi polloi – leads the audience in a rousing chant of ‘Pompey is a wasteman!’ (Pompey being a freshly-crushed enemy of Caesar’s). What’s most interesting about the wider casting is the gender assigned to the characters in Page’s modern-dress production: the conspirators are female-led, with pronouns explicitly changed. Anna Crichlow’s guileless Brutus and Charlotte Bate’s bookish, nervy Cassius stand in stark contrast to the blokes: Dickon Tyrrell’s self-regarding Caesar and Samuel O

The Tempest

  • Shakespeare

Sean Holmes’s career as associate director of the Globe has thus far been fairly evenly divided between ‘light’ comedies in the main theatre, and darker, more director’s theatre-style shows in the Sam Wanamaker. As a play, ‘The Tempest’ hovers somewhere in between, also it’ll be interesting to see what Holmes does with it – the poster art suggests a relatively jolly take on Shakespeare’s tale of shenanigans on an enchanted island, although the brief season description suggests it’ll be a ‘tumultuous’ take. There’s no specific word on casting, but it’ll be performed by members of the Globe ensemble.

Midsummer Mechanicals

  • Children's

Staged in the indoor Sam Wanmaker Playhouse, the Globe’s first-ever summer kids’ show is written by Kerry Frampton and Ben Hales and directed by Frampton and Lucy Cuthbertson and takes the form of a sequel (of sorts) to ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. It follows the continuing misadventures of the Rude Mechanicals as they attempt to write a follow up to their unexpected hit play ‘Pyramus and Thisbe’. It’s aimed at ages five-to-12.

As You Like It with CBeebies

  • Shakespeare

Over the years the BBC’s pre-school channel CBeebies has been steadily working through the more age-appropriate end of Shakespeare’s works in fun, condensed versions that mix light-hearted plain English paraphrasing of the Bard’s plays with the odd classic stanza or two, with the majority of roles performed by characters and presenters from across the breadth of the channel. With ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, ‘The Tempest’ and even ‘Romeo & Juliet’ now done, next up is ‘As You Like It’ – not a play traditionally associated with young audiences, but its low bodycount and Forest of Arden-based fun and games makes it ripe adaptation. In any case, where previous outings have been filmed in the studio, this one will be recorded in situ at Shakespeare’s Globe, over the course of two days and four performances that will make it to iPlayer at a date TBC. There’s no casting, but expect major names from the CBeebies universe, while the poster would rather give away the fact that Steven Kynman will be reprising his role as William Shakespeare himself. Tickets will go on sale later than the rest of the Globe season.


  • Drama

This year, the Globe’s traditional end of summer season new play is a historical drama about Joan of Arc, written by actor and playwright Charlie Josephine. We don’t know a huge amount about it at this stage (beyond the fact it’s about very famous French heroine Joan d’Arc), but it seems the general vibe will be about how poor, female peasant hero Joan kicked the men on both sides of the Hundred Years War into touch, at least for a while. Ilinca Radulian will direct a cast TBC.

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