January 7, 2000

The Globe Theatre

Shakespeare's famous theatre has been recreated near its original location. The theatre was of particular interest to both of us. Patty is a professional theatre designer and Lloyd has been involved in an Elizabethan era theatre group.

The Globe viewed from the Thames.

To the left of the theatre is the Globe Exhibition with displays and a winter season stage. Plays are performed only during the summer in the open air Globe, although tours are available year round. We took the tour and lots and lots of pictures.

The Globe's Stage.

The Globe was been reconstructed using historical data from a variety of sources (in particular the excavation of the Rose theatre discussed below). It is constructed from oak and thatch using period tools and techniques. The marble pillars, etc. are all painted oak.

Close up of a pillar.

The entire stage is elaborately painted. The stage roof represents the heavens. Greek gods and zodiac signs decorate it. There's a trap door in the center of the roof from which celestial beings may descend. The center balcony is commonly used for musicians or particularly important members of the audience. Occasionally it is used by actors. Statues representing "Comedy" and "Tragedy" are barely visible at the rear of the balcony area. The lower stage has three large doors and a trap door to the understage area which represents the underworld.

Top, Middle, and Lower stage views.

Lloyd and Patty

The seats and standing-room-only pit held about 3000 people in period. Due to modern fire regulations, this number has been halved, the doors to the theatre have been widened, sprinklers have been added to the thatched roof, and the roof has been backed with fireproof materials (the real Globe burned down once from the roof catching fire - it was rebuilt). The pit where "groundlings" stood for hours was covered with hazelnuts shells. The modern floor is concrete with hazelnut shells for texture.

A view backstage.

Two views of the seats and roof.

Outside the theatre is an elaborate iron gate. Dozens of small sculptures representing characters, animals, and objects referenced in Shakespeare's plays adorned the gate.

The Rose Theatre

Half a block down the street is the Rose Theatre. The Rose was built several years before the Globe. The newer and larger Globe built next door eventually drove it out of business in the early 1600s.

The site of the Rose was fairly well known. When the building on the site was torn down to make room for a modern building, the archeologists moved in. They found a lot more than they expected. After a lot of public protest by a lot of famous actors, the new office building's owners were persuaded to redesign their building so that it did not put a major load bearing column through the center of the site. This took a major modification, but the site was saved.

Studies at the site produced a wide variety of artifacts and new insights into Elizabethan theatre construction. This new knowledge was invaluable to the Globe Theatre reconstruction project that took place very shortly thereafter. The banister posts and the hazelnut flooring were just two of the items gleaned.

Unfortunately, the techology to preserve the chalk and wood foundations does not exist, nor was there money for further excavations, so the site was reburied for preservation. The site currently features a short multimedia presentation and a small gift shop. The theatre trust is working to raise money for preservation research and eventual re-excavation.

The site of the Rose

The Globe Theatre, part 2

A half block further down the road is the actual site of the original Globe. A modern building covers half the site. It is marked by a brass plaque, a few signs, and some tiling on the adjacent parking area.

The plaque.

The parking lot.

Modern Theatre

We headed back to Covent Garden to pick up some china for Patty and her mother, then back to our lodging for dinner and to drop off our packages. Shortly we headed back into town to catch the new hot show in town "Mama Mia!"

Despite being a hot ticket, we had no problem getting "obstructed view" tickets the night before. Our two tickets were £ 25. Other than needing oxygen masks, our seats were pretty good. The show was a musical comedy set around a wedding. The music was chosen from the hit songs of Abba. This is kind of an odd choice, but it mostly worked and wasn't too forced. But, not being huge Abba fans, I don't think we got the complete point. It was fun, but we don't expect it to do well in America.

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Copyright © 2000 Lloyd B. Eldred, all rights reserved.