All on a summer's day...
The Globe Theatre
The Globe is a working reconstruction of Shakespeare's own theatre, pretty much on its original site. So - this is the theatre where Shakespeare worked, this is the theatre he wrote his plays for. As the blurb says, it's "the space that Shakespeare wanted us to meet him in".
The Globe is not what I've come to think of as a theatre - more like a bull-ring, with high circular walls and all the seating stacked up vertically in layers of galleries. The stage juts way out into the empty yard in the centre, and around it mill - not bulls, but "groundlings" - the promenaders and, yes really, the pie-sellers! The groundlings are open to the sky, but the galleries and the stage are sheltered with a thatched roof. And everywhere is wood, wood, and more wood: benches, stairs, beams, stage - all are rough hewn oak. The only concession to modern sensitivities (apart from the - fully hidden but thoroughly there - fire precautions) are cushions for hire - sponsored by Sainsbury's! And amongst all that bare wood, the stage is a blast of colour. There are no curtains or wings or backdrops, but a painted back wall and minstrels' gallery, and vibrant "heavens" painted under the roof which make a canopy over the "earth" of the stage.
I saw The Winter's Tale, and even though I'm not really a Shakespeare fan (or even, it must be said, much of a theatre-goer - mea culpa, Hollywood tat at the Showcase is my first love), I was thrilled. I sat on the edge of my seat to drink in the costumes, whooped at the jokes, and even had to blow my nose vigorously at the happy ending. Who says Hollywood's got the edge?!
If you want to know how they cope with "Exit, pursued by a bear", The Winter's Tale runs through the summer, ring 0171 401 9919 for programme details. And if you wait until the autumn to get your wit, culture, history, and the - er - cold wind from the river, wrap up well because the air conditioning/heating system is exactly the same as in Shakespeare's day!