Last week I went to see Julius Caesar at The Globe. As The Globe is one of my favourite places to spend a summer’s afternoon, it’s always a bit sad when the end of the season approaches, but I do have tickets for one more production. ‘Pitcairn’ is one of the plays by modern playwrights that The Globe puts on every year.
The Globe is Shakespeare’s ‘Wooden O’ – a new theatre which is a replica of the original theatre where Shakespeare’s plays were first performed. When you go to see a production at The Globe, there’s a real sense that the building itself is one of the characters in the play – Shakespeare wrote for a theatre like this and the plays make so much more sense there. It stands on the South Bank of the Thames, and is not one of the most comfortable theatres I’ve ever been in, but it’s definitely the most magical.
Over the years, I’ve been a regular attendee. When tickets go on sale in the spring, I choose the plays I want to see (mostly all of them), and send off for my tickets. That’s not as expensive an exercise as it sounds – although the seats are more costly, you can stand in the yard for £5, which is the equivalent of what ‘groundlings’ paid in Shakespeare’s time.
So I’m part of the rabble. Groundlings are likely to have water thrown at them, be moved out of the way by actors making their way to the stage, or asked to hold props which aren’t in use at the moment. We also clap and chant, wave our hands and stamp our feet. Actually the foot stamping is only carried out when strictly necessary – when you’re standing for three hours you learn to be economical with that kind of thing.
There’s a great view of the stage, and if you find that you can’t see over the person in front’s head, then you just move. Spots around the edge of the yard, where you can lean against the barriers, are hotly contested but I prefer to stand closer to the stage. When I went last week, the groundlings became part of the fickle Roman crowd. Processions wound through the yard and we were moved back by Roman soldiers. We were encouraged to chant and cheer for Caesar and then for Brutus – and so when Mark Anthony said ‘Friends, Romans, Countrymen’ we really felt that he was talking to us, and trying to sway our opinions.
For me, summer wouldn’t really be summer without The Globe. What makes your summer?