A faithful replica of the Bard's beloved theatre opened in 1997, Shakespeare's Globe is a modern performance space that throws audiences right back into the 16th century.
American actor and director Sam Wanamaker worked tirelessly for 20 years to bring this colossal project to fruition, his team poring over academic evidence on theatre design and construction in Elizabethan times and amassing as much evidence as possible for what Shakespeare's original theatre might have looked like. The result is astounding and attending a performance here is an opportunity to understand how Shakespeare's plays would have been watched and received by an audience of his contemporaries.
Close to London's Millennium Bridge and the Tate Modern, the round, half-timbered building rises between contemporary structures on the Thames' southern shore. The site of the replica theatre is very close to that of the original and it’s constructed entirely from English oak using traditional building methods of the time. Its thatched roof is thought to have been the first to be permitted in London since the Great Fire in 1666.
Attending a performance here is a memorable event. Shakespeare's Globe pays tribute to the life and work of the playwright, and the open-air performances offer an immersive perspective on the way Shakespeare’s plays were intended to be received.
There are three galleries filled with simple wooden benches surrounding the circular performance space. Historical accuracy rather than comfort was the intention with the design of the seating and you can hire a cushion to bring comfort levels up to modern standards.
Alternatively, you can opt to stand in the yard, where you'll jostle for space with the crowd as the cheapest ticket holders would have done in Shakespeare's time. Although you have to stand for the duration of the performance, you get an authentic insight into historical live-action performance and the chance to be very close to the heart of the stage.
Wherever you decide to sit or stand, as you watch a performance bear in mind that modern-day fire regulations mean the theatre has less than half the capacity of the original. In Elizabethan times you'd have been fighting for space in the yard or on your bench with twice the number of people.
Many of the performances here are experimental in nature and reflect the original conditions of the theatre, deliberately avoiding the use of modern lighting or sound engineering and instead using only the actors' voices, live music on period instruments and plenty of actor-audience interaction.