Where? Shakespeare’s Globe, 21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, London, SE1 9DT
When? Tours run every 30 minutes, all day every day (except 24/25 December). Check opening hours on their website.
What was on? Can’t remember. Probably Shakespeare!
How? Just rock up on the day to the exhibition entrance (rather than the theatre box office). There are some really useful FAQ’s here.
Cost? £15 for adults, £13.50 seniors, £12.50 students, £9 children -15, free for children under 5. Includes free entry into the exhibition
Duration? 30-40 minutes
Founded by the actor and director Sam Wanamaker, The Globe is a wonderful building as well as a terrific working theatre. Completed in the mid 90’s, it’s a ‘best guess’ replica of the very first Globe Theatre from Shakespeare’s time, built in 1599. Today’s Globe also has special permission to have the only thatched roof in London for hundreds of years – they were banned after the Great Fire of London. The very first Globe actually burned down during a performance of Henry VIII when a canon was accidentally fired into the roof after someone forgot to tilt it upwards (I wouldn’t like to be that guy.) Happily, even without modern health-and-safety rules everyone escaped unharmed. One gentleman’s britches were set alight but the flames were dowsed by his quick-thinking friend with a bottle of beer. The second Globe had a more prudent tiled roof but Shakespeare never wrote for it (although he may have acted there) and those killjoy Puritans closed it down with all the other theatres in the 1640’s.
Over 350 years later, we got Globe number three and as well as being an amazing place to see a play, it’s a valuable resource for researchers and fascinating for anyone who has seen Shakespeare in Love and fantasized about literate goateed Elizabethan men with 21st century hygiene. (Incidentally SIL was not filmed at the Globe – the theatre scenes are located in a purpose built ‘Rose Theatre’)
So, naturally, the Globe is incredibly popular. Unbelievably popular. It’s world-famous, and on the list of almost every visitor to London. To ensure that everyone gets a chance to visit, they need to run a lot of tours and the tours need to have a lot of people on them. You don’t get the most personal experience on a tour, as they have to cater for a wide variety of different visitors but it’s incredibly convenient being able to just turn up on the day instead of booking way in advance. The focus is on the history of the building and how the current Globe came to be here. Generally it’s a good overview of the theatre scene in Shakespeare’s day and the guides are engaging (and will always give an infinitely better tour than an audio guide ever could!!!)
Verdict: It depends how much time you have. I’d recommend watching a play and reading a bit of the history of the Globe rather than taking a tour if you have the time. I’ve seen some fabulous productions here (only a couple of duds) and you can get a standing ticket for just £5 even now which has to be the best bargain in London. (And for heaven’s sake don’t just pop in for 10 minutes – stay the course and see the play!) However, if you’ve only got an hour or so to spend, it’s worth taking a tour to see inside this magical theatre. You’ll never see Shakespeare in the same way again.
For more information visit the Backstage Theatre Tours website