Category: Shakespeare’s Globe

Our Home: A History of Bankside, LondonTour Guide and Exhibition…

Our Home: A History of Bankside, London

Tour Guide and Exhibition Assistant Jon Kaneko-James explores what the area of Bankside would have been like in Shakespeare’s time.

The Globe is a work of beautiful and almost impossible dedication, the result of a mission to reconstruct the best possible version of a timber-framed 16th century amphitheatre and to explore what that building would do to and for performance. Built with the time and money of a dedicated group of supporters, it sits framed by trees next to Tate Modern. 

The area has moved on around it. Just as the King’s Pike Garden became warehouses which became Shakespeare’s Globe, the Victorian buildings of the Bankside have become bars and eateries. New buildings replaced old. Breweries became apartment buildings.

However, for a few decades in the 16th and 17th centuries, The Bankside – a handful of streets between what is now London Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge – was alive with a strange mixture of industry and entertainment. 

From the start, Bankside was where London put things it needed, but didn’t want. The city might have been covered in a perpetual pall of smoke, but there were things that even Londoners didn’t want for a neighbour: dyers, creating their pigments by fermenting ingredients in urine; sulphur workers; mercury boiling – important both for hats and medicine; tanners; brewers; soap makers and paint makers. 

These businesses would have rubbed shoulders with the amphitheatres and other, more violent, entertainments of Shakespeare’s world. Park Street, now a mixture of offices and housing, would have been Maiden Lane. A visitor to The Globe on a show day afternoon would have turned onto the street with the Monger Brewery on their left and commercial pike fisheries to their right. The Globe and Rose playhouses would have been surrounded by tanneries, dyers and glassworks. 

Alarmingly, for a modern person, plays would have been disrupted by the roars of bears in the local baiting arenas: buildings in similar style to the Globe and Rose, but used for blood sport between animals. Fliers for celebrity bears like Old Harry and George Stone would have papered the area, with occasional glimpses of the animals being wrangled from the bear sheds on what is now the street Bear Gardens, to nearby baiting houses like the Davies amphitheatre and the Hope. 

The way home would have either been a dark, hazardous journey across London Bridge, under the heads of those who had offended Elizabeth I, or the slightly more pleasant experience of a ferry ride, leaving behind the smells and noises of the Bankside for the claustrophobic overcrowding of the smoke-haunted city of London. 

The Bankside Tour explores the sights and culture of Shakespeare’s Bankside. Tours depart every half an hour from the Shakespeare’s Globe Exhibition on matinee afternoons.

Read more blogs by our Guided Tours & Exhibition staff

Words: Jon Kaneko-James

Photo: From William Smith’s MS. of the Description of England, c. 1580 – The Project Gutenberg eBook, Shakespearean Playhouses, by Joseph Quincy Adams, Wikimedia

The 2018 #GlobeEnsemble: Rehearsal Room VibesYou may have read…

The 2018 #GlobeEnsemble: Rehearsal Room Vibes

You may have read our earlier blog about why our rehearsal room has been all about experimentation, collaboration and starting from scratch.

Today we thought we’d share with you a playlist of tracks that we have using as inspiration and motivation in our theatre-making process

Have a listen on Spotify.

The #GlobeEnsemble 

The 2018 #GlobeEnsemble: Welcome to Our Test TubeWe are the 2018…

The 2018 #GlobeEnsemble: Welcome to Our Test Tube

We are the 2018 #GlobeEnsemble (currently rehearsing Hamlet and As You Like It) and we’re getting into the swing of things. Unlike many other previous Shakespeare’s Globe companies, our group really have been starting from the very beginning.

When we first got together, ‘starting from scratch’ was a key part of our collective brief. All production choices made so far and to be made in the coming weeks will spring from what happens in our rehearsal room.

In the usual theatre-making process, for Shakespeare’s Globe and many other companies, more often than not these decisions are made months before rehearsals start, often months before the production is even cast. For our #GlobeEnsemble, this process really did begin as a completely blank canvas.

The rehearsal room belongs to all of us equally (the designer, the composer, the choreographer, the actors and the directors) in its entirety – it is a test tube in which everything and anything can be flung in and we can be as curious as we wish.

As we continue work, many ideas will be skimmed off, some will dissolve and be completely forgotten… but some powerful ideas will form crystals and be eventually assembled into final productions that we welcome you to from 25 April 2018.

Unusually, this rehearsal process is also ‘open’ which means others (such as staff, students, practitioners and other directors) can sit in the room at any time to watch the plays develop. We think it can be beneficial to share rehearsal processes and experiences, especially with Shakespeare and especially when experimentation is at play. Also, the Globe Theatre is an audience-dominated playing space, more like a football stadium than a conventional theatre! The audience have a huge influence on the performance and so having a busy rehearsal room prepares us for that busy, distracted playing space.

We’ve been thinking about how else we can ‘open’ this space to you, so for the next month we’re going to be taking you inside the test tube digitally via a series of videos and photos. We want you to feel and breathe this process as much as we do. Follow the hashtag #GlobeEnsemble and get ready to see what gets thrown into the mix.

Until next time, back to work.

The #GlobeEnsemble 


Apprentice Jadzia’s Big Awards Win!Today, as well as celebrating…

Apprentice Jadzia’s Big Awards Win!

Today, as well as celebrating National Apprenticeship Week (#NAW2018), we’re cheering a massive congratulations to our apprentice Jadzia for her big achievement last night at the Lewisham Southwark College Apprenticeship Awards.

Jadzia won Creative Apprentice of the Year Award – a well-deserved recognition of all the amazing work she is doing here with us and at college. Well done Jadzia!

In addition, we successfully scooped the Apprenticeship Employer of the Year Prize, another fantastic result.

A very successful night in Southwark for Shakespeare’s Globe!

Read more about the Shakespeare’s Globe apprentices

Pictured: Andrew Lawson (Head of Human Resources, Shakespeare’s Globe) and Jadzia Francis (Education Operations Apprentice)

Photography: Joe O’Neill

The Shakes-peers Collective: The AlchemistsOur Shakes-peers…

The Shakes-peers Collective: The Alchemists

Our Shakes-peers Collective company have been taking part in workshops and blogging about their experiences here at Shakespeare’s Globe.

Open Access Arts’ Jeanette Rourke describes the group’s latest session.

If you were a type of dessert, based on how you feel now, what dessert would you be? There were lots of fizzy sherbets in the room today but I’m pretty sure I’d be a Banoffee Pie!

We always ‘check-in’ like this, in a fun way, at the top of our sessions. Here we all were together for the third time. We huddled together to do a pencil sketch of how the sharing of our work may be next week. Amanda and Victoria support the group whilst having the all important tea and biscuits. That done, its off to the GLOBE STAGE! Each time it is SO exciting, it is such a magical place.

We make a few simple ‘staging’ decisions and off we go! Each person ‘performing’ the pieces we have been working on, with such raw honesty. Amazing responses have also been written by some the group and we listen in wonder.

Shakespeare’s words and our words shared in this spellbinding place, how extraordinary is that!  For some that have joined us, these workshops are the first time they have ever been in real contact with Shakespeare’s language and the “I don’t know what this is” of our first session has melted away. 

By allowing ourselves to be open to the process, magical things have happened. As Shakespeare said, “you are an alchemist; make gold of that.”

Cast Announced for Summer 2018 TourWe are delighted to announce…

Luke Brady and Steffan Cennydd

Cynthia Emeagi

Sarah Finigan

Colm Gormley

Russell Layton

Rhianna McGreevy

Jacqueline Phillips

Cast Announced for Summer 2018 Tour

We are delighted to announce full casting for our 2018 tour, directed by Brendan O’Hea

From 7 May, a company of eight actors will embark on a national and international tour of Twelfth Night, The Taming of the Shrew and The Merchant of Venice, beginning and ending at The Globe. 

In the spirit of Shakespearean tradition, the company will allow the audience to decide which of the three plays they would like to see, with a voting mechanism to be determined over the course of rehearsals.

The full cast includes: Luke Brady, Steffan Cennydd, Cynthia Emeagi, Sarah Finigan, Colm Gormley, Russell Layton, Rhianna McGreevy and Jacqueline Phillips.

“In the past decade we’ve toured across the world to castles, refugee camps, country houses and theatres. But one thing we never leave behind is the spirit of The Globe – in a shared space with story, storyteller and audience, we celebrate Shakespeare’s work with as many people as possible. But we’re keen to push the experiment further, so we asked, what would Shakespeare do? Following in Shakespearean tradition, our merry band will have three plays up their sleeve, and, for many performances, the responsibility to choose the entertainment will be given back to the most powerful person in our household: the audience. It’s experimental, it’s experiential, it’s Shakespearean, it’s shared, and it’s at the heart of all that we do.” Artistic Director Designate Michelle Terry

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Elizabethan Special EffectsIn this new series of blogs, we’re…

Elizabethan Special Effects

In this new series of blogs, we’re going to take you behind the scenes of our Guided Tours & Exhibition. Open all year round, the tour gives you an opportunity to learn more about this unique building and its most famous playwright, Shakespeare.

In this post, Exhibition Assistant Claire Reeves talks about how stage effects would have been created in Shakespeare’s time.

Facing tough competition from neighbouring theatres, such as the Rose and Swan, Shakespeare’s company, The King’s Men, had to fight hard to keep their share of the audience. So, like blockbuster movie producers today, they often looked to special effects to help wow audiences and keep them coming back for more.

There is the famous story of how, on the 29th June 1613, the company fired a cannon above the stage as part of a performance of Henry VIII. Part of the wadding flew out and landed on the thatched roof, starting a fire that would lead to the theatre burning to the ground. This was just one of the special effects used in Elizabethan Theatres. 

The Tempest is one of Shakespeare’s most spectacular plays, featuring raging storms, magic and even fairies. It also features one of Shakespeare’s most spectacular special effects. In Act Three Scene Three Prospero leads part of the shipwrecked party to a grand feast conjured by the spirit Ariel. However, just as the group reaches out to take the food Ariel ‘clasps his wings upon the table and, with a quaint device, the banquet vanishes.’ So how, without Prospero’s magic books, could Shakespeare’s company make a table of food disappear before the audience’s very eyes? 

The answer is simple: with a cleverly designed Trick Table. The table would be brought onto stage elaborately decorated with the magical feast. However, what the audience doesn’t realise is this table is carefully weighted so that once a pin was removed the top of the table would flip over to reveal the blank table top, concealing the feast below. The actors would crowd round the table, appearing to grab food from the feast. This meant that when the table flipped the audience couldn’t see the movement so when the actors step away in shock the food seems to have magically disappeared.

Of course The Tempest doesn’t just require magical special effects, it also needs a storm! Whilst you could be forgiven for thinking that there is enough rain and wind in a British Summer to make storm effects unnecessary in an open air theatre, Shakespeare and his company didn’t agree! Instead they came up with numerous ingenious machines to help ensure that, even on the brightest days, you got the full force of Prospero’s Tempest! 

The easiest way to create the sound of thunder was by banging drum in the Tiring House behind the stage. However, they all produced a device called a Thunder Run which was a wooden trough attached to a stand similar to a see-saw. This would be placed in the Sound Attic above the stage. A stagehand would then place a cannon ball in the groove and roll it from one end to the other to create a rumbling sound. To complete the effect they also use a device called a Swevel to create lightening. This was a wire reaching from the roof of the heavens to the stage bellow. Gunpowder could be purchased from a grocer or ironmonger and used to make a firecracker that could be lit to fly down the wire to the stage, sending sparks all the way. 

And, of course, Lear cannot cry ‘Blow winds and crack your cheeks’ without the wind. To create the sound of wind they had a large cylinder covered in fabric. When a handle on the side was turned the cylinder would rotate, moving the fabric and creating the sound of howling winds. This technique is still used on our stage today. In fact the wind machine used in our 2008 production of King Lear can be found in our Exhibition, so why not come and have a go at creating a storm yourself? 

Visit our Exhibition and find out more about other special effects, like flying gods, demons emerging from hell and of course how they achieved all of the blood and gore needed for all of Shakespeare’s tragedies!

Words: Claire Reeves
Photo: John Wildgoose

The Shakes-peers Collective: A Globe for Us ALLOn 8 January we…

The Shakes-peers Collective: A Globe for Us ALL

On 8 January we ran our first workshop as part of a new collaboration with Open Access Arts (OAA), St Mungo’s and The Clement James Centre

The Shakes-peers Collective is made up of 16 individuals – many identifying as socially excluded and with a range of access and support needs. 

We will be facilitating four sessions over the coming months and these are co-led by a Shakespeare’s Globe Education Practitioner and the Open Access Arts Team.

Using Shakespeare’s plays as inspiration, the company have been exploring the connection between themselves, each other, our words and our spaces.

In session one, this incredibly talented and diverse group dived straight into a workshop. Along with actor Beru Tessema, and Jeanette Rourke and Amanda Bass (two of the project leaders from Open Access Arts) the group looked at Shakespeare’s words and stories in their original context and a contemporary setting.

At the end of the session, the group wrote a collective poem to express how their time together had been. 

You are amazing. I am privileged to have spent time with you
A group that is filled with joy
A room full of sparkle
I am so moved by everyone’s power and confidence!
Feel it, give yourself to it. Don’t fear. Accept yourself for once.  It’s time.
I feel the energy vibrating in the room
I will express myself to the fullest
Wow! The power of the stage
To release, to forget oneself, and smile.
As an opened Forget-Me-Not Shakespeare has filled my heart and spread his seed again.
Beautiful relief to be breathing hopeful in the creative company of others
Transformation by simple means.
Releasing my inner power to motivate my confidence.
Wonderful feeling and blessed to break through. It is amazing to be here
Empowering. The floorboards are mine. They didn’t creak, or did they moan.
I stood, I looked. I acknowledged the space. You’re mine
It was beautiful to be in Shakespeare’s spirit

Words: Jeanette Rourke and Amanda Bass

“If there was ever a play that questions gender… this is it.”In…

“If there was ever a play that questions gender… this is it.”

In this Q&A, Director Michael Oakley discusses his upcoming production of Much Ado About Nothing, which is this year’s Playing Shakespeare 2018 with Deutsche Bank – our annual performances for schools, families and those new to Shakespeare.

The first ever Playing Shakespeare with Deutsche Bank production was Much Ado About Nothing and that was your first professional gig, wasn’t it?

Yes, I was Assistant Director on it. It’s a play that means an awful lot to me. I remember the response from the students was incredibly raw and truthful. It was thrilling.

How are you going about preparing for this production?

The Globe space is different from anywhere else and it marries well with this play because the audience are sometimes put in a position where they are more in the know than the characters on stage. In order for that to work to its best advantage and create tension in the scenes, you have to have a strong relationship with your audience in the set up. The Globe is the ideal place for this interaction to be fully realised as it creates such a unique experience between actor and audience.

These performances last around an hour and a half. What has been your approach to cutting the text?

The play is easier to cut than others – there’s an Elizabethan rule that Beatrice and Benedick rather brilliantly embody, where you never give just one example, you always give four or five to illustrate your point. When you take some of that away, the story becomes much more direct. 

In a play about love, why do you think there’s so much prose?

It’s often said that verse exists only when the characters are telling the truth, but in the one scene that’s entirely in verse in this play, the characters are lying! I think there’s a sense in this play that the characters don’t always know how to cope with their feelings and that might be why there’s more prose. This gives more danger to the language because you don’t know when people are telling the truth and sometimes they don’t know when they’re telling the truth themselves – there’s constant misinterpretation and deceit. The only time Beatrice ever speaks in verse is this rather beautiful moment where she’s heard a few home truths and she asks, ‘What fire is in mine ears? Can this be true?’ and she’s devastated about that, and that’s so illuminating and wonderful. 

This use of language as a sort of protective armour is why I feel this is such a good play for young people. We self-preserve and self-project the image that we want other people to see. This focus on how you are perceived by your peers and how they respond to you is an important theme for the characters in this play. It’s only when the characters realise that actually telling the truth, and that being open with each other is the better way to live – that they grow up and move on. 

I think that’s what Shakespeare always does in his plays, especially in the comedies, he offers his characters’ mistakes as examples and invites us to respond to them and recognise ourselves in them.

I know you’re particularly interested in the Hero and Claudio relationship…

The main narrative of the text is the appalling deceit of Hero by Claudio which has the most dreadful consequences for everyone. I think it’s important that we build up to that moment and then look at the effects of it. Hero becomes a very different character when she’s not with her father – she becomes much more in command. In some scenes, she’s as witty and vivacious as Beatrice, but she has a father who she has to please. 

Claudio undertakes one of the biggest emotional shifts in the play, and I’d argue, one of the biggest emotional shifts in the whole canon. In The Winter’s Tale, Leontes (who’s like Claudio ten years down the line) talks about his ‘re-creation.’ He recognises the need to see things differently after the crisis he’s faced and I think Claudio has to do that too. 

For me, one of the most telling lines in the whole play is when Claudio finds out Hero isn’t dead and says, ‘Sweet Hero, now thy image doth appear in the rare semblance that I lov’d it first.’ He still hasn’t grown up and it’s not until he sees her, and not his image of her, that he can change. 

How has the time that we live in and this particular audience influenced your work on the play?

We’re talking more about gender now and if there was ever a play that questions gender – this is it. The world of social media makes us much more aware of what people think and say about us now too. On Instagram we select the image we want to project of ourselves for the world to see.

And it’s a world where reputations can be ruined in a moment…

Absolutely. Look at Snapchat and the problems there are in schools when people post comments about images which can be devastating and destructive. Reputation, honour and our sense of self-worth and how they are linked to our image is what this play questions and explores. Part of my job is to extract the thematic strands that make it more immediate and direct for a younger audience today. Some of those strands have gained an urgency today that they didn’t have ten years ago.

Tell us about your ideas for how music will feature.

Music is really important in this play. It’s referred to in the text so many times. The last line, ‘Strike up, pipers,’ is key and the two songs in the play are very important musical moments. The first, ‘Sigh no more, ladies’, could be the catchphrase of the whole play. The music at the tomb when Claudio goes through his ‘reformation’ should be very emotive and visceral. Shakespeare knows that sometimes words aren’t enough and that music can move us in a different way.

What questions are you hoping the audience will take away from this production?

Much Ado About Nothing is always called a comedy and I think it’s wonderfully funny but it also very nearly becomes a tragedy. In the final scene, the play forgives Claudio, but whether as an audience member we go for it or not is something I would love everyone to walk out asking themselves. Hero forgives Claudio, could I? Shakespeare often presents difficult questions and doesn’t always make it an easy ride for his audience.


Pictured: Tom Davey, Olly Fox, Charlyne Francis. Tyler Fayose, Emilio Doorgasingh, Rachel Winters, Etta Murfitt, Michael Oakley, Charlotte Mills & Fiona Hampton in rehearsals. Photography: Cesare de Giglio.

Read more about Playing Shakespeare with Deutsche Bank

See rehearsal photos

Gender, trickery and double standards (an article on Medium)

Margaret Casely-Hayford appointed as Chair of Shakespeare’s…

Margaret Casely-Hayford appointed as Chair of Shakespeare’s Globe

We are delighted to announce that Margaret Casely-Hayford has been appointed as the new Chair of the
Board of Trustees at Shakespeare’s Globe. She takes over from Lord Bichard, who
has served three years as Chair and ten years as a Trustee.

Margaret Casely-Hayford says: ‘I’ve always disliked seeing the arts weaponised and used as a tool to
carve out and perpetuate the distance between the privileged and everyone else.
So, it is an honour and a joy to be at the helm of an organisation that strives
to make sure that its rich cultural heritage is accessible and available to

Neil Constable, Chief Executive of Shakespeare’s Globe, says:
I am thrilled to be welcoming Margaret
as our new Chair of the Board. With a wealth of experience in senior roles
across the private and public sectors, she has an excellent understanding of
the needs of a complex organisation with international profile and reach. Her
mixture of legal, business and charitable expertise will be enormously valuable
to us. After thirteen years of service, including three as our Chair, I’d like
to thank Lord Bichard for his dedication to the Globe.’

Margaret has a breadth of experience spanning the
commercial, charitable and public sectors. She is currently Chair of ActionAid
UK, appointed in 2014. The charity is dedicated to relief of poverty and to
education, with a specific focus on the establishment and promotion of the
rights of women and girls. Previously she was a Government appointed
non-executive director of NHS England (2010 – 2014). Other Government
appointments include being a Special Trustee for eight years of Great Ormond
Street Hospital Charity and Trustee of the Geffrye Museum. She is also
nonexecutive director of the Co-op Group.    

Margaret is involved with a number of education
organisations, including being Chair of the advisory board of start-up Ultra
Education, which teaches entrepreneurial skills to children from primary school
upwards. She is a Patron of the Sir John Staples Society and supports London Music
Masters, which both seek to encourage cultural and music education in state
schools. Most recently in May 2017, she was appointed as Chancellor of Coventry

Previously, Margaret worked for nine years as Director of
Legal Services and Company Secretary for the John Lewis Partnership plc, where
she also operated as senior legal and compliance advisor to the Executive
Chairman and Senior Management of the Partnership group. Prior to that, she
worked for twenty years as a solicitor and was a partner at the global law
firm, Dentons.