The idea of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre did not excite me. After all, it’s a reconstruction. But the experience of it blew me away -- one of our best days in the trip. The original early 16th century theater district was on the south side of the Thames, the swampy side, populated with bars, brothels and warehouses. But, it wasn’t long before even Queen Elizabeth 1st was barging across from Westminster to enjoy the plays. And even though the original Globe burned down, it was quickly rebuilt and thrived until the Cromwell’s Puritan government shut down all theaters, Catholic churches, and brothels – or tried to shut them down. Brits ousted the Puritans after ten years due to their inability to govern effectively, and British theatre has thrived ever since.
Today, Shakespeare’s Globe sits almost hidden amidst plane trees on the banks of the Thames. London has become a city of flagrant skyscrapers that thrust upwards from the horizontal plane of six to ten story buildings. Where does this three story theatre figure when the eye hits The Gherkin, The Shard, 20 Fenchurch – even the first skyscraper, Centre Point, that is getting a massive overhaul? This theatre fits beautifully because just as the buildings emerge, so do Shakespeare’s plays. This is not a museum to the playwright. It is a breeding ground for vibrant theatre using the DNA of the 16th century and producing experiences as striking and engaging as modern London.
We purchased tickets for a play called Imogen. Shakespeare did not write Imogen. He wrote Cymbeline. Imogen is Cymbeline’s daughter, just one of the characters. Globe Artistic Director Emma Rice and Director Matthew Dunster created a whole new play. As the review in The Observer said, “Go for what this says it is – a play called Imogen – and you will hear a taut, disturbing and intelligent melodrama, shot through with some of Shakespeare’s most neglected beauties: “melted from the smallness of a gnat to air”. You will see crystal-clear action and, pumping behind it, the emotion that fuels the drama, some of the best dancing on the London stage.” If you went expecting the authentic Cymbeline, you would leave disappointed. We were walking on air as we left.
Getting to and from Shakespeare’s Globe is a beautiful journey. You leave the tube at St. Paul’s, continue half-way round the Cathedral to St. Paul’s Passageway. That joins to Millennium Bridge (pedestrians only) that deposits you at the feet of the theatre. We lunched at a Turkish restaurant, Tas Pide. Good food, reminiscent of our Turkish holiday, but made me long for the pides of Anatolia. A pide is a boat-shaped pizza. We retraced our journey home, full of the marvels of London.