In 1995, I was reading Shakespeare for my English degree at the University of Reading when a fellow Shakespeare buff (who was my teacher and mentor) decided to take me to the Globe Theatre for a visit. At that time, it was still under construction and we were taken around the site where we witnessed this magnificent theatre slowly taking shape. It was officially opened in 1997.
Today, while my other half and I were walking along the river, we decided to pop into the theatre and it was the best thing we’ve done on the last day of 2010. You could spend a good hour there, learning all about Shakespeare and London’s theatre history. I suspect being in a theatre in Shakespeare’s day would have been more raucous than watching football today. It was rowdy and people made sure their views were heard during performances. Just like football now, theatre in Shakespeare’s day attracted all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds. Unfortunately, most West End theatres have lost this wide and broad appeal, although some theatres, like the Old Vic, do a lot of work with the local schools to cultivate a new generation of theatre buffs.
Also in Shakespeare’s time, the company would rehearse a play in the morning and stage it in the afternoon. This meant that everyday, they would stage a different play. Perhaps Elizabethan audiences were demanding or they needed new stimulation everyday but you do have to feel for the actors who had to learn and remember different lines and stage directions on a daily basis.
Aside from Shakespeare’s history in London, there is currently an exhibition called ‘Frost Fair’ which explains why The Thames froze between the 15th and 19th century. Interestingly, I hadn’t realised that the old London Bridge (the way it was built) was the primary reason why The Thames froze. It wasn’t just the cold weather but the slow moving water and debris being stuck at the bottom of London Bridge that made the river icy.
We were also fortunate to watch the Winter Wassail choir rehearsing their performance, the first of which is held tomorrow at 2 pm. We heard a lovely rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas this afternoon. If you are looking to do something fun over the next three days, then do consider seeing them. It promises to be a marvellous concoction of music and poetry, dating from the Elizabethan times to the Victorian era. There’s also the tempting promise of ‘good mulled wine’ to ‘drive the cold away’.
The 2011 theatre season at the Globe Theatre looks promising. In addition to the fantastic Shakespeare fare on offer, I have got my eye on Howard Brenton’s Anne Boleyn and Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, both of which I hope I will get to see.
Finally, the Globe Theatre is also all about London and London’s history. I can’t help thinking of this quote and just how apt it is to London:
“What is the city, but the people; true the people are the city” Coriolanus III
Wishing everyone a wonderful 2011.
The Winter Wassail concert runs from 1 – 3 January 2011.