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Guided tour of William Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

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Globe Theatre tour
Where? Globe Theatre, 21 New Globe Walk, Bankside When? Every day Running time? 50 min tour, plus your own free time in the museum afterwards Tickets? Adult £25; Child (5-15) £18 See shakespearesglobe.com Parking: Nearby car parks Buses: 11, 15, 17, 23, 26, 45, 63, 76, 100, 344, 381, RV1 Bus fares Trains: The closest station is Southwark Jubilee Other nearby stations: Cannon Street and Mansion House Train fares

Craig’s review… I consider myself to be reasonably well educated. I'm not quite on the Albert Einstein level, but put it this way: I went to school. I'm not thick. I can do all the usual stuff. I can tie my shoelaces, count to ten, recite the alphabet backwards and say "please can I have a ham sandwich" in French... and that's pretty much all you need to know in life. So here's my take on Shakespeare: I don't mind reading about him and his Tudor times, but his plays are too hard work for me.

They made us read them at school and it was like learning another language. I remember our teacher making us slog through Macbeth because it was full of blood and fighting, so presumably he thought that would keep us interested in it (pupils love a bit of blood and fighting -- especially at break time).

I think we did Othello as well -- was that the one where she dropped a tissue on the floor and he stabbed her in the face? King Lear -- that one was about an old fella who went nuts and his daughter jumped in the canal. Romeo and Juliet. Everybody says that one is romantic but all I remember is Romeo committing hari-kari and Juliet sucking up a toxic miasma. If that's romance then I think I'll stay single, thank you very much.

I'm actually thinking about re-writing that play with me in the lead role, but I'll have to make a few changes in case they make it into a movie. For starters, I don't care how pretty she is, I'm not climbing up a balcony to sing her a song -- not with my busted knees. She'll have to bloody well come down here if she wants a kiss.

Guided tour of the theatre

If your thinking is similar to mine then here's my advice: the Globe Theatre Tour is still worth a visit anyway. It really doesn't matter if you don't like Shakespeare's plays because it doesn't focus on his words. They don't stand there singing his sonnets. It's much more about the man himself, and the history of his original playhouse.

It begins with a quick little look at the museum before meeting the tour guide downstairs (don't worry if you have to rush around the museum because they give you endless time to see it at the end). Our guide turned out to be a very nice lady who looked a lot like Taylor Swift. She may even have been Taylor Swift. She also had the remarkable ability to show off all thirty-two of her pearly white teeth at once. I got the feeling that she was a wannabe actress who wanted to jump up on stage and sing us a song, because some of her theatrical demonstrations were good enough for a spot in the cast.

There were about thirty people in our tour group, but don't worry if you're deaf because everyone has to wear a pair of headphones. Taylor Swift stood there talking about ten feet from our face, whilst simultaneously broadcasting it through the headphones, so we could hear everything she said as clear as a bell.

Learn about life in Tudor London

The first thing she did was take us outside onto the veranda where she told us all about Southwark and what a hellhole it was in Shakespeare's day. Apparently it was stinking crime den full of violent drunks and never-do-wells... so not a lot different from today then (only joking, ha ha). Then she told us all about the Clink (the local nick), and all the traitors' heads that were stuck up on spikes by London Bridge. She really set the scene well, and it's a wonder that Shakespeare spoke in such flowery prose with all of that misery going on around him.

The stage area and balcony seats

The tour started to get really interesting once she led us inside for a look at the stage. The layout is pretty standard for a theatre, but what sets the Globe apart from everywhere else is the roof -- because there isn't one! It's totally open to the sky. At the front of the stage is a concrete pit where the cheap people stand (the 'groundlings'), and then it has three levels of balcony seats wrapped around the yard.

I've actually been on this tour a couple of times now, both during the theatre season (mid-Apr to mid-Oct), and outside it (mid-Oct to mid-Apr), and I definitely recommend the latter. That's because they frequently have rehearsals on during the theatre season where no one is allowed to make a noise -- not even Taylor Swift. She basically just sat us down and let us look around, but her lips were zipped up tight to avoid disturbing the rehearsal. The precious actors were busy choreographing their movements and couldn't be interrupted, you see. Apparently waving their arms around in circles is so tremendously difficult that if anybody makes even the slightest noise then it will put them off and ruin all their preparations.

I had to hold my breath for a whole ten minutes. The last time I came it was much better because she sat us down in the balcony and had a long chat about the stalls and the stage, pointing out all the decorations and explaining how all the trapdoors work, etc., but Taylor Swift was forced to recite all of that outside today. But that's just a very minor quibble because I still enjoyed it.

Once the rehearsal was over she led us down into the pit and let us stand by the stage. And that was basically it. Tour over. It was just a quick forty-five minutes of history before she said her goodbyes and let us loose in the museum, which you can walk around at your own pace.

Museum about Shakespeare's life

It's actually quite a good little museum but it will probably appeal more to London history buffs than theatre nuts, because whilst there's plenty to learn about Bankside, the old Rose Theatre and the timeline of the Globe, there's not a tremendous amount about Shakespeare himself. They've got a copy of his will on show, but then it's all theatre props, costumes and how they created the sound effects in Tudor times. If you're a kid then they've also got a little stage area where you can dress up in Tudor clothes and have your photo taken by your mum and dad. The final section explains how they rebuilt the theatre using the original 16th-century methods.

So is it worth a visit? Yes. And I'm not just saying that because the guide looked like Taylor Swift. They've also got quite a good gift shop if you're looking for some Shakespeare presents.

If you enjoy a bit of Shakespeare then you might like to come back and watch a play being performed. They've got some original Folios on show at the British Library and Victoria & Albert Museum. And you can visit his memorial in Poets' Corner at Westminster Abbey. If you don't mind the train trip then you can also visit his birthplace at Stratford-upon-Avon.

Worth a visit? Value for money? Good for kids? Easy to get to?

I also recommend… If you enjoy Globe Theatre then you might like to visit Charles Dickens Museum (walk it in 28 mins or catch a tube from Southwark to Russell Square) and Sherlock Holmes Museum (Southwark to Baker Street)

London Squire bookThe owns londondrum.com and has spent the last decade reviewing the capital’s landmarks, attractions and hotels. His guidebook is available from Amazon

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Your comments and questions

Caroline Hi, if you don't want to go on a guided tour and you just want to look inside the theatre can you do that without paying?

Craig Hi Caroline, no. You can look at the outside of the theatre and go in the shop and cafe without paying, but you can't get inside the theatre itself unless you're on a tour or you're watching a play.

Jim Is there anywhere to put your bags when you're on the tour?

Craig Hi Jim. They can look after small bags for you, but they won't look after large bags though, and they won't let you carry them around inside either, so you might want to check your bag's dimensions on their website - shakespearesglobe.com/​visit/​security-at-the-globe/

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