Monday, 14 November 2011

All the World's a Stage

By Debbie & Jacob
In 1599, the original Globe Theatre stood on the south Bankside of London. It was there because they wouldn't allow theatres and other amusements (such as bear-baiting) in the actual city of London. Shakespeare's company learned 30 plays or more a season! A flag flew each day to signify the type of play - black for tragedy, yellow for history and green for comedy. They were always at 1400h because there were no lights and it was after the bulk of the workday.

Groundlings R Us!
There was a yard below the stage where you could stand for a penny as a "groundling," with the stage quite tall so that drunken spectators couldn't climb up. Over 1,000 groundlings may be packed into the yard, and 2 pence got you a seat in the middle, 3 up in the top, and 6 pence got you into the box seats facing the audience. Nowadays the prices are 5 and 37.50 pounds for the groundlings and the middle seats!
Ritzy 2 penny seats!
There was a special effects room above the stage, and in 1613 during Henry VIII, they wheeled out a cannon to shoot. A piece of wadding flew out and got stuck in the thatch roof and within a few hours the entire Globe burned down. It was rebuilt the next year but closed in 1642 by Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans.

400 years later, US actor Sam Wanamaker had a vision of rebuilding the Globe. The new Globe opened 14 years ago in 1997, about 2 blocks from the original site. It is an open air 20-sided building, made with untreated green oak timbers and wooden dowels. The white walls are made of a mixture of sand, white limestone, and cashmere! The thatched roof is now the only one permitted in London, but it has a sprinkler system. It went off once by accident during a matinee, resulting in a lot of wet groundlings!
One interesting fact about the Globe balusters (the posts in front of the seats) is that there are 310 of them on each of the 2nd and 3rd levels. On the second level they were all hand-turned on a lathe by a Swedish woman. However, time was running out for the big opening, so a carpenter got out his power saw and did all 310 flat balusters for the 3rd row! Both sets are painted with a fake marble pattern - can you see the difference?
In 2012 for the Olympics, all 37 Shakespeare plays are going to be performed by compaies from all over the world in their native languages - that should be a spectacle to see Shakespeare in Maori!

Our guide was Angela Bain, who did a terrific job of not just giving us the facts but getting us really into the mood of Shakespearian theatre!
Now the Globe performs only 8 plays - 4 Shakespeare - a year. Some are very traditional while others are modernized with Armani suits, acrobats, or changed settings (MacBeth was set in Hell).

Hey, but if you thought THIS was cool, wait until the next post - it gets even better!

1 comment:

  1. Greetings Groundlings! Great post! It really brings back memories of our own trips to London. We saw Abelard and Eloise at the Globe last time we were there. Started off as a groundling but moved up to the seats since it was pretty intense in the mosh pit:-) Sadly, we never got a deluxe tour like you had. Looking forward to your even cooler next post!