Everything you need to know about the Globe Theatre
First opening its doors in 1599, the Globe Theatre has been rebuilt and renovated into the eye-catching playhouse it is today. With thousands of visitors taking in a Shakespeare production in his own theatre, the Globe Theatre has a legacy stretching for over 400 years. Find out more about the venue with us as we take you through the history of the important theatre on the Southbank.
All about the Globe Theatre
Where is the Globe Theatre?
The Globe Theatre is located on the Southbank of the River Thames, in between Blackfriars Bridge and Southwark Bridge. The nearest tube stations are Blackfriars and Southwark, with London Bridge just a short walk away.
What was Shakespearean theatre like?
Plays written by Shakespeare often featured a bare stage, with few props and all male casts would play roles for males and females. But plays only had short runs and they needed to be replaced regularly. It is estimated that 3,000 plays were written between 1560 and 1640, with William Shakespeare as one of the leading British playwrights.
A new theatre was needed to satisfy the demand for new shows and the Globe Theatre was eventually commissioned to be built.
When was the Globe Theatre opened?
The Globe Theatre originally opened in 1599, after demand grew for a new performance space. The theatre was built by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, who would regularly perform Shakespearean productions for paying crowds.
The surrounding area at the time made the Globe Theatre a lucrative building for theatre. Near to the Rose Theatre and Swan Theatre, the area was home to an active performing scene. Building work began in 1597, before the first production opened in 1599.
Although it is not known what the first show was, some of the earliest Shakespeare tales to be performed at the Globe Theatre include Julius Caesar, King Lear, Macbeth and Hamlet.
How many Globe Theatres have been built?
There have been three Globes, with the first building only open for 14 years. On 29th June 1613, gunpowder was used during a production of Henry VIII which set the building on fire. As the fire spread, the building collapsed and the Globe Theatre was no more.
The Globe Theatre was then rebuilt in 1614, later shut down in 1642 in line with a Puritan Ordinance issued by Oliver Cromwell which closed down all London theatres.
The theatre which stands today is a reconstruction of the original theatre, which was opened in 1997. Providing an authentic experience for those who attend shows, the theatre now houses exhibitions and a smaller playhouse, named after Sam Wanamaker.
Who is Sam Wanamaker?
American actor and director Sam Wanamaker was inspired to bring the presence of Shakespeare back to London as he reconstructed the Globe Theatre. The Shakespeare’s Globe Trust was set up in 1970 to raise funds and start the process of building the theatre. The trust had completed its initial goal in 1993, raising enough money to rebuild the theatre and get planning permission for the venue.
Passing away in 1993, Wanamaker never saw his dream become a reality as the theatre opened after he died. However, the smaller playhouse has been named after him, with some of Shakespeare’s biggest texts performed in a winter season from November to April.
The theatre didn’t have a roof, so how do they use lights and technology?
As the Globe Theatre has no roof, the shows have to consider all weathers when they conjure up the overall vision and how a story will be told. To ensure that the mood was created, actors would use drums to represent thunder, gunpowder and firecrackers to create crackling sounds, as well as cannonballs to make powerful sounds. The cacophony of sounds that came from early productions at the Globe were created through using resources around them.
Want to find out who makes a creative team in a production today? Read our ultimate lowdown on who’s who in a creative team.
How much did it cost to go to the theatre?
When the Globe Theatre was first opened, audience members could pay one penny (the equivalent of a quarter of one penny today) to stand in the auditorium and be a “groundling”. Groundlings would often throw food and drink on the stage as a sign of their opinions of the actors and performance.
Now, tickets for a show at the Globe may not be this cheap, yet the theatre continues to hold an esteemed legacy as one of the leading theatres in London.
Are just Shakespeare productions performed at the theatre?
As well as performances of Shakespeare’s beloved classics, it’s not just the Bard’s works that are performed here. There are choral shows performed by music ensembles, as well as productions by newer playwrights.
When can I visit the Globe Theatre?
The Globe Theatre is open all year, with productions playing in the main auditorium from April to October and the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse from November to April. If you’re wanting to get into the mind and life of the talented British laureate, why not book your tickets now for a Shakespeare’s Globe Tour? Filled with information about Shakespeare, theatre and what it was like to go to the Globe in the 17th century, the tour will leave you wanting to recite Shakespearean passages to all your friends!