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Why visit the Globe Theatre?

Without all that pesky travelling getting in the way, I've had plenty of time to overthink and overplan future trips. London is always a favourite for me to go back to and plan to death. I've been following a recent post with interest regarding a London itinerary and these two comments came up about the Globe Theatre.

I went to a play at the Globe and found the seating very
uncomfortable.

Agree and even having the last row seating to lean against the wall
it’s not an experience I would repeat. When there are venues with good
lighting and acoustics and comfortable seats, why see productions this
way?

I didn't make it to the Globe on my first visit to London and so I can't comment about the comfort levels, but for me the point of seeing a play there wouldn't necessarily be to see a Shakespeare play but more to experience a it in a way that may be similar to the way it used to be. No wrong answers, but I'm curious about others' opinions on what they hope to get out of a visit to the Globe.

Posted by
1803 posts

We attended a Shakespeare at the Globe a few years ago. Yes, the seating is uncomfortable; you can rent seats with a back to make it more comfortable, but the women in front on me was literally in my lap! Seriously!! But, there isn’t another experience like the Globe!! For us, travel is all about seeing and doing new things and have experiences we can not have at home. It was an awesome!!

Posted by
2918 posts

Similar to Susan and Monty. We’ve been to plays at the Globe Theatre 4-5 times over the years and have gone to see how people experienced theater in its heyday, in a different era. We’ve always tried to sit in a row in the back to have a bit of a back rest and to not have sun shining on us. We always rent cushions. The theatre experience I choose not to experience is being a groundling. The standing audience looks like they are having a unique vantage point and experience, sometimes with the actors, but you can see them tiring and shifting weight a lot. I highly recommend the overall experience and we’ve seen some wonderful productions too!

Posted by
3789 posts

Do they seed the audience with rotten fruit throwing lads? Prostitutes or gentry in the upper galleries? There are so many layers that are no longer available, but you have the right approach..to sort of experience Shakespeare as he wrote it to be played.
To add it or not? Do you have to book any more than a day in advance? If you have missed it this far, how much of a priority is it? I would tend to decide once in London.
OT, but I remember summer theatre in Monterey CA 30 years ago. Open air, no assigned seats, just long wooden benches no backs, so you arrived early with a blanket, cushion, group of friends and a picnic basket of cold dinner and some libation. If you were smart, you would have hubby sit behind so you could lean against his knees when you back got sore. To see Brigadoon outside in a forested glade theatre was perfect. Down side was limited toilet facilities. The typical line up at Ladies so we would take over the Gents as well. Perhaps not that different to the Globe in any century.

Posted by
5703 posts

Did it once to experience it.

Wouldn’t do it again BUT will go to theatre whenever I’m in London.

Usually I’ll grab 1/2 price tickets via the Leicester Square 1/2 price ticket booth for same night performances. Been doing that since their play offerings were written on a chalk board. However if there’s a well known production I’ll cough up the pounds to attend. Did that in 2019 to see Hamilton. Also too see Witness For The Prosecution at County Hall. Bought that ticket at County Hall.

Love attending theatre in London.

Posted by
928 posts

London is often a gateway city for me in transit. I try to get a few days there either going or coming via Heathrow. The Globe is something I always check out as a possible place to visit. The annual schedule of plays and dates is usually released in late winter - start checking the website or just googling to find out what is being planned, who might be playing, and the nature of the plays to get an idea if any of the offers appeal. I find I am usually a matinee attendee. I purchase the tickets online from the Globe website. They do a great job describing the view from particular seats. You can back this up with googling photos of Globe productions and getting an idea of what your seat may be like. I also do not opt to stand these days, but I have taken seats off to the far side at the top which may be designated as blocked views.

Comfort? Rent a pillow. Most attendees seem to. I also prefer the rail seats to have something to lean on, and near the aisle is my preference.

I have attended at least 3, maybe 4 productions right off the plane (the matinee productions). Jet lag can be a pain, but what better way to get through it than sitting and watching an absorbing play? The entire experience is fun. I remember the moms next to me sending their kiddos to get some snacks when Macbeth and Lady Macbeth became physically entranced with each other. Ha, the kids weren't really watching anyway.

My favorite so far is Emma Rice's A Midsummer Night's Dream (2016). I was so happy they released the DVD in 2019. Maybe I will watch that tonight. In sum: I am a Globe fan. That said, I pick and choose what I attend. Sometimes, the play I can get to does not appeal, and the play as well as the setting has been important to my enjoyment.

Posted by
921 posts

My sister and I went in 2017 to see Romeo and Juliet as groundlings, only 5 pounds a piece, with our elbows on the stage! It was amazing and I would do it again in a heartbeat!! Having secured our spots along the stage we sat down on our jackets before the play started and during intermission, so I didn't find the standing unduly taxing. We were 40 and 37 respectively.

Posted by
4889 posts

In Shakespeare’s day, there wouldn’t have been a gift shop, bar or restaurant at the Globe Theatre. Properties wouldn’t have had running water. Would you want to stay in a property with no running water? Thought not. The Globe is a facsimile of what a theatre may or may not have been like at that time.

I had enough Shakespeare rammed down my throat at school and would personally run a mile from having to sit through another performance anywhere!

Posted by
4 posts

We took our sons to London when they graduated from high school. One of the top things they wanted to do was to stand in the audience at the Globe and watch a play. They loved it. I believe that they really appreciated getting to imagine what it was like. They went up close and were surrounded by other young people. They talked throughout intermission with people from all over the world. They also had actors fighting right next to them when they came off the stage. It was a favorite experience for them. I also enjoyed it. After walking around London all day, I will admit, I was happy to sit down for a bit during intermission. But I am still glad I stood. If you have interest, I think it is worth doing, at least once.

Posted by
746 posts

Hi Allan -

I’d go again in a heartbeat, and I’ve been several times previously, it has never failed to thrill and absorb me. Rules for the delicate (like myself): Hire the cushions with back rest. Take a layer and a waterproof as it’s open to the sky and it could get cool and possibly wet the later it gets - you are in England after all. One experience the Elizabethans missed out on is the jet liners flying overhead during the performance following the Thames on their final approach to Heathrow! Have a read of the plot synopsis of whichever play you are seeing - makes following it a little easier, although largely I find they are made simple enough to follow, I always find there are a couple of passages that leave me wondering what the hell they were about.

Usually we tend to sit in the first couple of rows above the groundlings as centrally as we can (the website has a seating plan so you can choose when purchasing tickets exactly where you will sit). I’m not sure where this seating places you in the hierarchy - possibly down at heel gentry with loose morals and of easy virtue? Never really considered it! The view is usually good though.

If you are out of season - the Globe, being partially open air, is generally open through the summer months - check out what is playing at the other attached theatre, the Wanamaker. This is a tiny (200 maximum audience I think) replica Jacobean theatre. It has a roof but the same uncomfortable seating as the Globe. Although being in a mostly wooden building lit by real candles adds a frisson that diverts your attention from the hardness of the seating! There may be a Shakespeare play on, but they feature performances by other playwrights and musical recitals as well. On our visit we saw a play based around Handel composing and debuting ‘Messiah’ which was riveting and brilliant.

I would thoroughly recommend it - and you are right of course, it is as much about the experience as the performance.

Ian

Posted by
5093 posts

We were in London, just pre-pandemic, and were on the Southbank, near the new Globe, but didn’t go see it. While seeing the outside in person, even though it’s not a precise copy of the original (different size) sounds like a nearly historically significant experience, I’d have to think about attending a performance. While being a Groundling sounds like a romantically appealing notion at first, standing for a whole performance doesn’t really seem attractive after all. Seeing Richard III with commoner-priced tickets, in Dublin, October 2019, seated, was undoubtedly much more comfortable.

Posted by
3554 posts

I didn't go to a performance, but I did go on a theater tour which I enjoyed very much. If you are unsure on whether the performance fits with your needs, consider visiting the theater for a tour only.

Posted by
2490 posts

We toured the Globe while on the RS London tour. Enjoyed it but would never consider a show there. I have a bad back, we are older, and comfort is important. We were members of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland for many years. If you want to see great theater (assuming we ever get back o normal) I would recommend this. You’re outdoors, but sitting in real seats (blankets and pillows available) with nearby toilets and a bar!

Posted by
4787 posts

For comfort, the outdoor theater in Ashland is paradise compared to the Globe. As I posted in the other thread, I found the Globe pretty uncomfortable, like being in a church pew with no legroom. I was all the way back on one side of the stage. No complaints about my view of the stage, and I could see all the groundlings shifting from one foot to the other. At some point there was a disturbance down there, I think someone had fainted. People with lights came in to help. The performance went on, as it should. Unfortunately the performance (Macbeth, autumn 2016) left a lot to be desired.

I'd recommend a visit to the Globe, without a performance, to see what theaters were like (sort of) back in the day, and for the exhibits. And a really good production might make the discomfort worthwhile. A matinee after an overnight flight might be just the ticket for staying awake through the afternoon, it would be impossible to nod off there. ;-)

Posted by
4665 posts

We also went to the 2016 production of Midsummer Night's Dream, and it was the highlight of our trip. We considered being groundlings, but decided against it. I honestly don't remember if we had seat cushions or not. The seats were no more uncomfortable than church pews, as I recall. (Our church recently padded the pews, and I was appalled.)

The entire evening was magical, just sheer bliss. As is common in such productions, the setting of the play was updated, which meant we didn't get all the jokes, but we still had a wonderful time. The woman who played Puck was the best actor I have ever seen anywhere, anytime. The sets were fantastic, the crowd was really into it, and I still marvel at the puppet that played the Indian boy.

If I had the chance to do it again, I wouldn't hesitate. We did buy the DVD after Debbie (I think it was) told us it was available. It is great, but doesn't hold a candle to the experience of being there that summer night.

Posted by
1921 posts

The Globe is a facsimile of what a theatre may or may not have been
like at that time.

That's what imaginations are for. In 2014 I was in Florence for 1 day off of a cruise and we didn't bother with tickets to see the Statue of David, but I was intrigued to see the facsimile at Piazza della Signoria. It was explained to me that it was in the same spot that the original David stood before finding its way to its current home. Eventually I'll go back to see the real thing and maybe I'll be astonished...or maybe not. But on this occasion I was able to imagine what it may have been like to have lived back then and seen the statue for the first time in its original setting.

Posted by
5367 posts

The Globe is like any other tourist destination (call them sights, tourist traps, must see's, whatever trips your trigger) in that if it appeals to you, either because you are a Shakespeare fan or want to check it off the list, then do it; if not then it probably will not be a great experience. It obviously takes some work to imagine yourself at an Elizabethan venue, a bit like imagining you really are in "Medieval Times" at the similarly named venue, but if you get into it, and accept it for the entertainment value, then it can be a good experience. If that "entertainment value" escapes you, then it could be misery.

Posted by
2265 posts

I went to the Globe twice when I was in London a few years ago. Memorable experience.
1. I bought a £5 groundling ticket for The Merchant of Venice well in advance, via internet, especially because theater seating was much more expensive and notoriously uncomfortable. Since the performance would come at the end of a long day of tourism, I figured I would go to the play quite early, try to stand in the very front, consider it mostly “an experience” and leave at the intermission. But I enjoyed it so much that I stayed through to the end, but was really, really exhausted as I left. No chairs allowed as I remember, no photos during the performance. The costumes were incredible, especially up real close.
2. Since I would be going to a performance later on, on my first day in the city, wandering Southbank, I came upon the theater and decided to take a morning guided tour. Learned a lot about the facility and the times, also a small museum there at the theater. I was lucky to pass by, and just buy a ticket then for the very next tour (about 60 to 90 minutes).
By the way, for other plays I decided I wanted to see things that were British, not American or other; that I had not already attended in the US; that were upbeat and visual or musical, not heavy drama. Also not expensive. I saw and enjoyed Billy Elliot and War Horse (I had seen the film but not the play).

Posted by
1921 posts

When I think about it, it wouldn't occur to me to go see a play at home and so if I were to go somewhere else it would mainly be for the experience, no matter the venue. I was out-voted 1-1 by my wife while in New York because she thought we should see a play on Broadway-I wanted to go to Yankee Stadium. Next time I'm in London I want to see Mousetrap, just to see what the fuss is about for a play that has continuously run for 68 years (well, until the pandemic stopped the streak). Taking a tour of the Globe is on the list when we next get to London, but if we stay for a performance is TBD. I'd love to be in the standing section, but my wife is only 5' tall and so that would be a non-starter for her.

Posted by
8318 posts

Larry, I also saw War Horse in London. I thought it was incredible!

Posted by
5703 posts

Seeing Mousetrap over a decade ago remains a favorite theatre memory during my many visits to London.

I think my appreciation began when I realized ice cream cups were sold by vendors in the aisles during intermission. That memory still generates a grin.

So was seeing the quintessential American musical
“ Guys and Dolls,” over 20 years ago.

NEVER miss seeing theatre while in London.

Hamilton, Witness for the Prosecution in 2019.

Always check the London Theatre Guide months before my departure.

Over the years have seen Maggie Smith in Lady in The Van, ( 1999 ) and Laura Linley at The Bridge Theatre in My Name is Lucy Barton ( 2018 ).

Always check to see what’s on at Wilton’s Music Hall so I can enjoy a pint with friends after at The Princess of Prussia pub. Wilton’s is a preservation success story.

Next trip ( whenever that maybe) intend to see whatever is on at the Rivoli Ballroom in Brockton.

My fascination and love of London includes exploring its various neighborhoods and always keeping an eye out for where to enjoy a pub lunch. Still have to get to Alexandra Palace, make a return to Mud Chute Farm, visit Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, return to Greenwich ( been 20 years ), meander through Maltby Market, visit London Museum of Steam and Water in Brentford, revisit the Imperial War Museum, see Horniman Museum and Gardens, eat more scones and clotted cream, revisit the Hampstead Heath and the hidden hill gardens,
finally get to St Dunstons in the East, Eltham Palace...

Need a viable, proven and established vaccine!!!!