Essential London Theatre: Standing at the Globe

What’s it like to get down and dirty in the pit at Shakespeare’s Globe? We found out…

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Outstanding. That, in a word (or maybe two) is exactly what it’s like to watch a production as a groundling at Shakespeare’s Globe.

What’s a groundling? It may sound like an earthy woodland sprite, but a groundling is actually an audience member who watches a Globe production while stood firmly on their feet in the famous theatre’s pit area.

You might have to support your own bodyweight for a bit, rather than rest it on a seat, but you’re much closer to the action, you can move to avoid that ludicrously tall chap in front of you, and you pay just £5 for the privilege.

But what’s it like standing at the Globe?

Let’s not sugar-coat this, it’s a little tiring on the old legs. But you’d probably stand for that long at a rock concert, wouldn’t you? So let’s not get too bogged down with any possible aches.

Also, you’re not actually standing statue-like for that time. You can move about. We’re not suggesting you break out your street-dance routine, but a side-to-side shuffle or a wander to get a better view is fine.

The benefits are great too. Where else do you have performers edging past you, or stopping to chat, on their way to the stage? Where else can you genuinely make eye contact with an actor and know they can see you and everything you do? Get close enough to the stage and you could actually reach out and touch a performer during the show (you should probably wait for them to suggest that, though).

The experience is as close to feeling part of a production as you can get without straying into immersive theatre. It’s scuba theatre, if you like: immersive for periods, but you can come up for air.

And what air it is. Look up on a clear summer’s evening and you get the glorious blue of the London sky contrasted against the yellow, brown and green of the Globe’s thatched roof.

A little light physical activity and an evening of wonderful entertainment makes standing at the Globe a night out that’s good for your heart and your soul.

Five top tips for standing at the Globe:

  1. Wear sensible shoes. You’re going to be standing for a while; this is not the place for nine-inch stilettos.
  2. Check the weather forecast. The thing about the Globe is, it has no roof. Make sure you know what the weather is going to do and dress appropriately.
  3. Take a waterproof coat/jumper. We know you just checked the weather but you never know… Take something to wear to stop you getting soaked in an impromptu downpour. You don’t want to be the person receiving dagger-like glares for putting up a golf umbrella.
  4. Carry a bottle of water. It’s the middle of summer, you’re in a group of warm people and the sun’s beating down – you need to stay hydrated. There’s nothing worse than missing the end of Hamlet because you’ve been stretchered out after fainting.
  5. Get there early enough to enjoy the view. This is prime Instagram territory. As well as the gorgeous structure of Shakespeare’s Globe itself, just over the water there’s St Paul’s Cathedral, plus iconic new London buildings the Walkie Talkie and the Gherkin. On a summer’s night, or even a winter one, it’s simply stunning.