What you need to know about Shakespeare’s Globe:
Shakespeare’s Globe is home to two playing spaces. The Globe Theatre is an open-air replica Elizabethan theatre, while the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse is an indoor replica Jacobean playhouse. Performances switch to the smaller indoor space for the winter months, when visitors can enjoy the atmospheric candle-lit environment. The complex also includes an exhibition area, an education centre, a shop and multiple dining areas.
Shakespeare’s Globe opened in 1997. The actor and director Sam Wanamaker led its creation. The project was a long time in the making. Wanamaker began exploring the idea in 1949. In 1970 he founded the Shakespeare Globe Trust. When Wanamaker died in 1993, the site was just beginning its transformation into one of the most popular and iconic theatres in the country.
The new Shakespeare’s Globe is approximately 230 metres from the original theatre used in Shakespeare’s own day. The original theatre opened in 1599, but burnt down in 1613 as the result of a cannon fired during a performance of Henry VIII. It reopened a year later, but was then destroyed deliberately in 1644 after the Puritans closed it down in 1642.
Today’s Globe is considered to be a fairly faithful recreation of the original. It is based on information gathered by excavations of the old site and other historical sources. Elizabethan woodwork practices were used when building it, while the roof is thatched with water reed thatch, the same as used on the original. Little was known about how the stage area was meant to look, so its design is based on other buildings from the time.
The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse opened in 2014 with a production of The Duchess Of Malfi. It is a candle-lit indoor space loosely based on the Blackfriars Theatre and the earliest known plans of an English Theatre. The modern playhouse is designed by Jon Greenfield. It is lined with oak and includes a musicians’ gallery. The ceiling is decorated with a celestial painting based on Cullen House in Scotland (destroyed in the 1980s). The stars are crafted from gold leaf. The theatre’s candles are placed in candelabra that can be moved to different heights throughout the performance, plus in sconces and, occasionally, in the hands of the actors. As with The Globe and its thatched roof, fire prevention was a huge deal in the construction of the playhouse, with even the ceiling paint being carefully selected to help avoid catastrophe.
Emma Rice is currently the Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s Globe. Michelle Terry will replace her in 2018.
Top facts about Shakespeare’s Globe:
- The original Globe Theatre held 3,000 people. Modern health and safety requirements mean the new one has space for 1,400.
- Shakespeare’s Henry V contains the lines: “And shall this cockpit hold the vasty fields of France / Or may we cram within this wooden ‘O’…”. The wooden O refers to the original Globe Theatre.
- The Globe Theatre is made entirely of oak… all except for one lonely mahogany beam donated by a patron. Presumably they thought it would be rude to waste it.
Key information about Shakespeare’s Globe:
Tube: The closest tube station is either Blackfriars (District and Circle lines) or Mansion House (District and Circle lines), which are both around 10 minutes walk from the venue. Alternately, use London Bridge (Northen and Jubilee lines), Southwark (Jubilee line) or St Pauls (central line), all of which are around 15 minutes walk.
Train: The closest train stations are Blackfriars (10 minutes walk), London Bridge (15 minutes walk), Cannon Street (15 minutes walk) or Waterloo (25 minutes walk).
Bus: Local bus routes include: 45, 63, 100 to Blackfriars Bridge; 15, 17 to Cannon Street; 11, 15, 17, 23, 26, 76 to Mansion House; 381, RV1 to Southwark Street; 344 to Southwark Bridge Road. To plan your journey in more detail please visit the Transport for London website.
Boat: Shakespeare’s Globe is 10 metres from the Bankside pier. The Thames clipper runs ever 20 minutes throughout the day, with the last one at 11:22pm.
The closest car park is on Thames Exchange on the north side of Southwark Bridge.
Limited parking is available for Blue Badge holders on new Globe Walk and the surrounding streets. The Globe does have two Blue Badge spaces that can be booked in advance through the Access Line.
Shakespeare’s Globe runs its own Access Scheme. It is free to register and helps the box office become familiar with your needs so they can book the most suitable tickets for you. Find out more and to register.
Both the Globe Theatre and the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse are wheelchair accessible, and the venue is fitted with lifts. There are spaces for one wheelchair user in the yard area of the Globe and three (plus three companions) in ‘Gentleman’s Box P’. In the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse there are spaces for two wheelchairs in ‘Lords’ Box A’. The theatre recommends the aisle seats in the back row of the lower gallery if you wish to transfer to a seat. But please note that there are no handrails.
Visitors in the Yard are on foot, potentially blocking the view of wheelchair users in this area. To help with this, the Globe has a ramp that can be used to elevate wheelchair users. Please arrange to use this in advance with the box office.
You will find accessible toilets on the south side of The Globe, next to the shop and just after the men’s toilets. There is another on the west side of the piazza next to the First Aid room.
The Globe has a hearing induction loop available for all performances. It does advise that since the theatre is open air, all sounds will be amplified. If this is a problem, they also have a limited supply of hearing induction loop enhancers, which visitors can borrow from the Welcome Desk located in the foyer.
Working dogs are welcome in all areas of the theatre. However, the theatre asks that you inform the box office in advance of arriving and let them know if you want to take the dog into the auditorium or have a member of staff look after it.
The exhibition area at The Globe is wheelchair accessible. All display cases and interactive screens are placed at a low level. Braille panels describing the exhibition are also included throughout.
The shop area is wheelchair accessible via lift.
To discuss all access requirements and to book tickets, please phone the Access Line on 020 7902 1409 or email [email protected]
Shakespeare’s Globe offers an access discount. To find out more and to book access discounted tickets please contact the Access Line or the main box office. The venue may ask you to register for the Access Scheme in order to receive discounted rates. Concessions are not available online.
Shakespeare’s Globe programmes audio described, captioned, BSL interpreted and relaxed performances. To find out about future performances, please visit their website or contact the Access Line via the details above.
Shakespeare’s Globe is home to the Swan restaurant and bar. Sit upstairs to enjoy relaxing views across the Thames whilst eating a pre-theatre dinner, afternoon tea or drinks with friends. The restaurant specialises in British classics with a contemporary twist (a bit like the theatre itself). The bar is open from 8am for breakfast until after midnight each day. The restaurant is open from 5pm on days when there is an evening performance in The Globe or Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.
If you’re looking for something lighter to eat or a quick drink, there’s also Theo’s café on the ground floor of the Sackler studios, the Foyer Café Bar and the Upper Foyer Bar.
Please note that all eating and drinking areas at Shakespeare’s Globe are accessible via a lift.