Today’s adventures brought us to London to see a play at the Globe Theater for our English lit and theater class. The Globe Theater is world famous because of its status as the original theater where all of Shakespeare’s plays were debuted and regularly performed.
Even today, only Shakespearean plays are performed at the Globe, and people come from all over the world to see these tragedies, comedies, and romances. Since we were seeing a Friday matinee, the play we would be attending was A Midsummer Nights Dream. Like most American public school attendees, I read that one in high school (where I played the very minor background character: Mustardseed the fairy) Needless to say, I was thrilled to attend, and am excited to share the experience with you now!
Traveling to London from Oxford
The last time I went to London, we took a double-decker bus. This time, our class had its own single-decker bus, and although there was the expected Friday traffic, we made it to London with time to spare.
The Borough Market
Since we had some time before a Midsummer Night’s dream was set to start, our professor brought us to the Borough Market for lunch.
Entering the Borough Market
The Borough Market seems to have partially outside partially inside setup, with old brick and green wooden walls with canvases half-covering the ceiling. Inside are hundreds of booths serving all kinds of food from every cuisine under the sun. It’s a fun market to explore, and smells even better- I don’t think that even the pickiest eater would go hungry here!
The Borough Market is huge and super crowded, this is only one section of it
After stopping at a few booths and choosing a couple of treats from the market, we made to find somewhere to sit. Only problem is, it’s pretty much a sit-wherever-you-can space, and so we found an alleyway where a street performer was playing a tuba with flames coming out of it.
Don’t believe me? check it out!
That’s him alright! Flaming tuba and the works
The Globe Theater
The Globe Theater was built by Shakespeare and his theater troupe back in 1599. As you’d expect given the name, the Globe Theater is a round building with the ceiling exposed, giving it the structure of an outdoor amphitheater. The stage contains multiple levels and ramps that the cast members use to enter end exit the stage through the crowds.
The Globe Theater’s stage
Ever since its construction, Londoners from all walks of life have enjoyed seeing Shakespeare’s plays. Like a sports stadium, there are different types of tickets you can buy. The first type of ticket costs just a few British pounds, and will get you into the pit, a standing area that surrounds the stage. It’s a lot like being in the mosh pit of the concert, you can eat, drink, and get close to the stage there. Our class had the next level of ticket, which is up on the balcony on wooden benches. While these seats are less interactive, it was nice to be comfortable and out of the hot August sun, and we also got fun little spirally hats. I’m fairly sure there’s another level above that, but I’m not sure what it’s called.
Here’s the balcony level where we sat (notice little hats)
Before the play even started, a band of five appeared on the upper level of the stage and made their way down to center to play some jazzy pre-show tunes. They provided the music and sound effects throughout the play too. It matched the bright and loud party-tone of the show perfectly. Then before we knew it, the show began!
To preface, I sort of expected A Midsummer Night’s Dream to be as traditional as it gets given the location, with frilly collars. ye olde english, and all. However, the delivery was extremely modern with a diverse cast and bright, neon costumes and props. It was… awesome! The actors that played the main cast: Hippolyta, Hermia, Lysander, and Demitrius were talented as the young and very confused lovers, the fairies were so much fun and had the best costumes by far (think Party City on drugs), and the craftsmen were absolutely hilarious. Puck, the messenger fairy was actually played by all members of the cast, with his presence denoted by a white tshrt with “PUCK” scrawled across it and some fairy antennae and magic wands. While the performance at the Globe was much different than I’d originally expected, I really liked this take on Midsummer, and I think Shakespeare would have loved this fun-filled retelling of one of his most well-enjoyed plays.
I was also surprised by just how raunchy some of the scenes got. For example, the fairy queen’s sexual adventures with the donkey are thinly veiled with the use of suggestive props, like a flute. This wouldn’t have been a second thought if a majority of the playgoers in attendance weren’t elementary school-aged children on field trips of their own. Overall though, I was less surprised by the sex jokes, and more surprised that little kids were there to hear them, though I can’t imagine they really understood what was going on. I guess it’s kind of like 90’s kids cartoons in a “you’ll get it when you’re older” sense.
Even though I already knew what a Midsummer Night’s Dream was about and what happens in it, watching it at Shakespeare’s own theater was so much fun, and while it was a little much to process at times (both in terms of raunchiness and bright neon colorfulness), that’s just how Shakespeare is! His work should be celebrated, but shouldn’t be taken too seriously in my opinion. He was a comedian after all.
My professor, however, didn’t seem to agree with this sentiment. I don’t think he liked the creative liberties taken in this modern adaptation, and when a friend of mine asked what he thought following the performance, he replied: “I don’t want to talk about it” before silently leading us back to the bus. I guess we can agree to disagree on our reviews!
I loved our field trip to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Globe Theater! It’s my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays and so it was lots of fun to see one of his silliest plays on his original stage. The different types of tickets make attending a show here quite accessible, and I really would love to see a different play at the Globe if I return to London. Next time, I’ll definitely give the pit a try!
Until next time, see y’all somewhere! 🙂