When I was a teenager, despite enjoying English as a subject, I had no opinion on Shakespeare. We studied Romeo and Juliet, and I enjoyed watching the Baz Luhrmann adaptation (in class of course). When I hit A levels, we studied Othello, and I quite liked the grittiness of the plot, and still think Iago is the quintessential villain. Then I taught The Merchant of Venice to a GCSE student alongside studying classics like Titus Andronicus, Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, King Lear and The Tempest at university. But I still had no real opinion on Shakespeare’s plays.
Not until I watched my first live performance.
I didn’t actually see Hamlet at The Globe, I watched it at the RSC in Stratford-Upon-Avon, but suddenly, I understood what all the fuss was about. It was evoking, engaging, and I found myself on the edge of my seat. My first trip to The Globe was to see Romeo and Juliet in 2017 with 50 teenagers, where again, I was mesmerised, and may have had a little cry, and it has been unrivalled ever since.
Here’s why you should give Shakespeare a second chance and see a play at Shakespeare’s Globe in London.
1. It makes for a lovely day out to London
Standing majestically on the South Bank, Shakespeare’s Globe is in the heart of Britan’s capital city. Surrounding it is the Tate Modern, Borough Market and The Shard, and on the north of the river, you’ll be only a few minutes’ walk from St Paul’s Cathedral, or to The Bank of England and Monument to the Great Fire of London slightly further afield.
The theatre is also only a 10 minute walk from three major tube stations: Southwark, London Bridge and Canon Street, so there’s no stopping you jumping back on the tube to some of the more lively areas of the city.
2. There’s all sorts of refreshments you can enjoy
There are kiosks in the theatre where you can purchase food and drink – at London prices of course – as well as book drinks in advance for the interval. Then, if you are feeling a little peckish, or desperate for a whole meal, there is a wide variety of pubs and restaurants nearby, some big franchises and some lesser known names.
3. It’s great for a warm summer afternoon
If you didn’t already know, The Globe is an open air theatre, as it would have been in the 17th Century (well, 1599) when it was originally built. This means that if you have bought a standing ticket, you are completely at the mercy of the weather, but if you are seated, you get slightly more shelter.
What better way to spend a sunny summer day than a live, open air performance? Surely that’s much more appealing than sitting in a stuffy theatre for three hours?
4. You get to take a step back in time for a couple of hours
On that note, history and culture buffs might enjoy the architecture of the theatre. Sam Wanamaker worked hard to keep the reconstruction as faithful to the original theatre as possible: it’s on the river bank, circular with a thrust stage and three levels of seating. It’s even constructed from English Oak and has the only thatched roof in London!
If you opt for a seated ticket, you’ll watch the play like one of London’s wealthy, and if you stand in the yard, you’ll be living like the peasant class of the 17th Century – so hipster!
5. The actors are extremely talented
Some of the best actors in Hollywood ever started out performing Shakespeare’s plays. Heroes like Ian Mckellen (Gandalf), Judy Dench (M in Bond movies), Patrick Stewart (THE Patrick Stewart), and Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall) started by performing Shakespeare’s plays.
Even now, it’s a huge honour for actors to play his timeless characters, like the 2010 The Tempest with Helen Mirren, the 2011 Coriolanus with Gerard Butler, and the 2015 Hamlet with Benedict Cumberbach. If Shakespeare was rubbish, why would so many brilliant actors want to perform in his plays?
6. You understand the plot, even if you don’t really understand the words
Finally, and most importantly, Shakespeare’s plays were meant to be seen and not read. People always turn their nose up at his plays, and I think it’s because they had to analyse them in school rather than enjoy the plot and characterisation.
When the actors are in front of you, owning the stage, the language isn’t the most important part. Trust me, I’ve watched Othello entirely in Croatian and could follow the story!
7. One for luck – It’s funny!
Even the darkest of tragedies like Macbeth and Hamlet have bursts of humour. The actors know how to engage an audience and provide a level of comic relief to the plot. All the stories are full of toilet humour and innuendo – aimed at the peasant mass, like me – and you can’t help but snicker at some of the dirtiest jokes.
Occasionally, you might get lucky and see a total hiccup in the performance. One actor playing Lorenzo at the end of The Merchant of Venice accidentally dropped his guitar mid speaking the line ‘ Fair ladies, you drop manna in the way/ Of starved people. ‘ So what did he do? Said ‘And I drop guitar’. And I literally cried laughing.
So, I hope these seven reasons have convinced you to shell out for a ticket to watch a play this summer season. It’s an experience you’ll never regret.
For more information about Shakspeare’s Globe click here.
If you find you like it and get the Shakespeare bug, a weekend in his birthplace of Stratford-Upon-Avon is picturesque, historical and fun! I wrote about my trip here.