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Shakespeare's Globe

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  • 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


  • Shakespeare

The Globe is perhaps the one theatre in the entire world where ‘Hamlet’ gets programmed without a star actor attached: the titanic play’s usual status as a celebrity vehicle feels at odds with the Globe’s inclusive, ensemble approach. Theatre boss Michelle Terry did in fact play the doomed Danish prince last time it was performed here, although this was only made apparent late in the day. But this time the Dane will be performed by virtual unknown George Fouracres – he previously had roles in last summer’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and ‘Twelfth Night’ but is perhaps best known for feature in sketch group Daphne alongside Phil Wang. Whatever happens, director Sean Holmes should guarantee it’ll be interesting, and it’s a thrill to have a major-ish ‘Hamlet’ with no real idea what to expect.

The Merchant of Venice

  • Shakespeare

‘The Merchant of Venice’ is always a bit of a can of worms, thanks to legitimate questions over how the Jewish moneylender Shylock should be treated and Shakespeare’s intent behind the writing him. But it’s a great play and most major productions rise to the challenge: we don’t know much about the Globe’s revival, but you imagine it’ll be sensitively cast. It’s directed by Abigail Graham and designed by Sarah Beaton – and that’s all we know for now.


  • Shakespeare

After a short, controversial tenure in charge of acting school Lamda, director Sarah Frankcom gets back into her old groove with her first production since leaving, helming a 90-minute school-friendly take on The Scottish Play, part of the Globe’s long-running Playing Shakespeare strand. After an initial run of schools performances for which non-selective state schools can apply for free tickets (not listed) it’ll open to regular members of the public up for a brisk bit of revenge tragedy.

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