This isn’t the first time we’ve been to the Globe. That was in April 2008, a week or so before the theater opened for the season (bad timing). Then we walked around outside, oohed and aahed, bought some DVDs and other things in the shop and hoped we’d get back one day. This was at the beginning of our Shakespeare period.
This time we came to London because the seminar with the Swedish Shakespeare Society includes a play at the Globe, we chose the hotel because it looks close to the Globe. This time the Globe is the thing.
Still we don’t know quite what to expect when we arrive. Reading maps can be tricky so we are prepared for the hotel to be farther away than it looks. We set off on a walk that evening prepared to walk, what? Fifteen minutes? Twenty? We turn the corner of the hotel, walk fifty meters, go through a tunnel, walk another fifty meters. And there it is. A five-minute walk!
An auspicious start to a ten-day visit to London. Which quickly turns into a little love affair with the Globe.
A lovely little shop with all kinds of Shakespearean goodies – books, DVDs (Globe performances which is great but none others unfortunately), hoodies, T-shirts, pens, pencils, mugs, doodads of all kinds. It’s lucky we have to limit our purchases to what we can carry, otherwise… However, most of the merchandise is available on line.
Shop clerks, ticket sellers, wardens – they are all infallibly friendly, helpful, patient and enthusiastic. The tour guide, whose name I fail to catch, is funny, knowledgeable, and informative, as are the two young people who happen to be presenting costumes when we are at the exhibition.
I’m not good at museums. I usually conk out after about fifteen minutes but this one keeps my attention for a couple of hours with quite a variety of displays on the plays and times of Shakespeare and his London.
Oh the tickets! When we arrive we are secure in the knowledge that we will be seeing a play. But our frequent – two, three, four times a day – visits to the Globe and repeated glances at the blackboard with all the “sold outs” pique our greed. Would it be possible? We ask. “Sorry, no returns but call tomorrow at 10.15.” Better yet, we’re there at ten o’clock when the box office opens. “Ah yes, I believe there have been some cancellations,” says the wonderful young man at the ticket counter. And just like that we have tickets that very afternoon. To The Tempest. With Roger Allam! From Endeavor! And Colin Morgan! From Merlin!
But greed breeds greed. Yes, we see The Tempest. Yes, we see The Taming of the Shrew. Yes, we are so satisfied. But Macbeth! Opening on Saturday! Sold out! But!
We’re there at ten o’clock. No returns, sorry. Back at ten-thirty. No returns, sorry. Back after lunch, after a visit to the Rose Theatre, after afternoon coffee. No returns, sorry.
OK. We start the queue outside the entry. We’ve seen the queues every evening, an hour or so before the plays start. The box office people assure us it’s possible.
A nice gentleman joins us and we feel like part of a queue and not just a couple of weird people standing alone in front of the entryway to the Globe. We chat. His partner is one of the actors and we agree that it was dumb of us all not to have reserved tickets long ago. A couple who has been sitting at the other side of the entry approaches.”They told us the queue would start over there…” I had seen them when we started queuing. The only honorable thing was to let them in ahead of us.
Others join us. We all have nice chats. Once, many years ago, Hal and I slept – well, lay in sleeping bags awake all night – on a square in central Stockholm to get tickets to a Springsteen concert. It was fun. Can this be compared to that? Yes, a little. This is fun too but we’re sad that it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting tickets this time.
Groundling tickets and single seats are starting to show up. One after one our companions disappear, wishing us luck.
The minutes tick by. Less than an hour. Of course we don’t expect to get tickets. To Macbeth? At the Globe? Opening night? Come on!
And then there she is. A young woman from the box office, with two tickets in her hand. Walking towards Hal and me, at the head of the queue. Suddenly we have tickets. To Macbeth. At the Globe. On opening night.
Oh what a lovely system!
The Globe itself
No, it’s not the real Globe. No, it’s not in the same place. No, we don’t know what the original really looked like. But the very first time one walks through the door, ticket clutched in one hand, seat cushion in the other, and sees, actually sees the raised wooden stage with its two pillars, the yard around it, the three galleries – more pillars holding up of the three tiers of wooden seats – forming a half circle around the stage, the painted gold leaf roof over the stage, the round opening straight to the sky – oh, there is definitely a wow-I’m-really-here-in-Shakespeare’s-Globe feeling. History! Come alive!
And then one sees how small it is. And how beautiful. And how glad one is to have tickets in the last row of the Lower Gallery to have a wall to lean against. And how glad one is that friend YW said, “Be sure to rent cushions!” These wooden seats are hard!
The groundlings fill up the yard until it’s packed. We few, we lucky few who have seats, are a little jealous of how close they are to the action (well, maybe not later when they get rained on, spilled on and spat on…) There is an increasingly festive air. If we aren’t all first-timers, we all at least have the feeling that this is something really special.
And the play – the magic – begins.
Thank you, all of you thousands who contribute, work, volunteer. Thank you, Sam Wanamaker! This is History. This is Elizabethan and Jacobean England (less smelly).
This is Shakespeare at home.