The UK Diaries Part 2: Shakespeare


Of course, Shakespeare was on the itinerary. We’ve been Shakespeare lovers for most of our lives, way before our milk teeth grew out. Our school had an annual play production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream put on by the sixth graders (I played Snout / The Wall and was Props director when it was our turn, if you must know), and to this day, we can still recite long passages of the play from memory.

We hit two Shakespearean destinations for this trip: Shakespeare’s Globe on the South Bank in London, and Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire.

Shakespeare’s Globe

Shakespearean icons decorate the theatre gates


Shakespeare’s Globe is a working theatre founded by American actor Sam Wanamaker (father of Zoe Wanamaker — Madam Hooch in Harry Potter / Cassandra in Doctor Who). It has two playhouses — the Globe Theatre and the more intimate Sam Wanamaker playhouse, as well as a Shakespeare exhibition and research facility.

We booked the exhibition and guided tour of the Globe Theatre, which costs 16 GBP. You can book online (2.50 GBP per transaction) or buy onsite. I suggest booking online if you don’t want to leave it to chance, because the Globe is a working theatre and tours are conducted around the shows. They also run other tours (purchased separately): the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse tour, and the Bankside walking tour.

They let you inside around half an hour before your tour schedule, just enough time to view the exhibition.

bibliography timeline
Globe theatre in miniature
artifacts from the Bankside excavation, including clothing, horse and mastiff skulls, water and money pots, drinking vessels, game components, and even hazelnut shells!
Costumes. Bottom right — worn by Marion Cotillard.
printing press
Recordings of key performances (no Cumberbatch, though)
life sized magnetic poetry!

The tour started after we viewed the exhibition, another half-hour. The guide talks about the long history of Shakespeare’s Globe and how the present structure came to be.

The tour also gave us access to the Globe Theatre gallery, where the guide talks about the parts of the theatre, the architecture, staging mechanisms, and more.

It’s lovely how despite modern technology, the Globe still remains faithful to the Elizabethan theatre in the round, from the greenwood structure to the thatched roof.

Because we grew up on Shakespeare. #CoolbeansinUK #thankyouStScho #geeksonholiday

Posted by Blooey Singson on Saturday, 22 July 2017

We would have loved to catch a play (cheaper than West End!),  but we couldn’t match any of the shows to our schedule, so I’ll earmark it for a future visit.

Note: Shakespeare’s Globe is actually a few meters away from the actual site of the Elizabethan Globe Theatre, which is now a carpark. But there is a memorial marker at the site, which we found while walking to lunch at Borough Market.

Shakespeare’s Globe
21 New Globe Walk
Bankside, London

Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Stratford upon Avon

The second half of our Shakespearean jaunt was part of a day tour that I booked with my cousin Dianne and our friend Carl (Golden Tours, which included Warwick Castle, Stratford, a drive through Cotswolds, and Oxford, about 90 GBP with entrance fees and lunch).

Stratford is charmingly quaint (blooms everywhere!), showcasing Shakespeare’s family homes managed by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. It’s a small town but you can easily spend an entire day checking out various attractions.  We only had time for one so we opted for Shakespeare’s Birthplace (I don’t remember how much, I think 10-15 GBP).

The tour started with a short film tracing Shakespeare’s legacy around the world.

Shakespeare’s Birthplace is the restored 16th century structure Shakespeare was born in (about 80% of the original, according to the guide, with a few modifications through the years). It recreates what the house would have looked like in Shakespeare’s time, and features actual furniture from the era.

entrance to Shakespeare’s birthplace
the guides are in period costume

Here’s a look inside the house:

John Shakespeare (Shakespeare’s father)’s workshop — he worked as a glover / tanner
Autograph window, conserved — this showcases some etched signatures of famous visitors, including Thomas Carlyle, John Keats, and Charles Dickens
work desk

It’s about half-hour to view all the rooms, and you exit into the garden.

Aside from  Shakespeare’s birthplace, there are four other Shakespeare properties  you can visit in Stratford: Shakespeare’s Birthplace (artifact gallery), Shakespeare’s New Place (exhibition centre and garden), Hall’s Croft (Shakespeare’s daughter Susanna’s house), Anne Hathaway’s Cottage (the 500-year old Hathaway home), and the Arden Farm (Shakespeare’s mother’s property, a working Tudor Farm). Each entry warrants a pass, but they have passes that combine attractions, if  you have more time in Stratford. Trains are available from London to Stratford (about 2.5 hours), and entry passes to the Shakespeare properties can be bought online and on site.

Shakespeare’s Birthplace
Henley Street, Stratford upon Avon,
Warwickshire, United Kingdom

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