On the 3rd April, Year 7 had the amazing opportunity to visit the Globe theatre in London. We departed from school on Monday morning, full of excitement and anticipation. We arrived, ready to learn and experience a renowned and historical landmark. The theatre quotes, `it isn’t just a theatre, it’s a time machine‘.
We were treated to a tour of the theatre. Our wonderful tour guide taught us lots of interesting facts. We found out that London was much smaller in Shakespearean times, in fact it didn’t even cross over the River Thames: the city was a square mile, north of the river! Queen Elizabeth banned all entertainment in the city, so people came south of the river for entertainment. Many citizens were unable to read and write, and books were extremely expensive. The only way to enjoy a story was through the magic of theatre, so they were very popular. People often went once a week.
Inside the theatre, we noticed the open roof with a thatched top (this was how it burnt down) and seating was only around the edges. Our tour guide explained that Penny-Stinkers (the peasants) would stand in the yard – the area in front of the stage – so they could enjoy the play at a cheaper cost. It is still cheaper to watch a play at The Globe in these standing positions. They were a noisy audience, who would chat and drink through the performances, so Shakespeare had to make his plays really exciting to engage the audience.
During our visit, we learnt about stage combat with swords and also we saw some actors performing fights from plays, which was fascinating. Actors wouldn’t have had much time to prepare for fights. They would have only rehearsed a few of moves at the end of the fight before the death. The rest would have been improvised.
We were all engaged when we heard about the culture and history of swords. The rapier’s popularity spread through Europe. Swords were very expensive and quickly became an item of fashion. The rapier developed into a long, thin sword, becoming a status symbol. As the fashion of the trendy sword travelled through Europe, local people wanted to see them – like we watch the fashion of the rich and famous. Shakespeare used this popularity and incorporated the swords and fencing into his plays. In Romeo and Juliet, Tybalt had one of a rapier, a symbol of his wealth and pretentiousness, whereas Mercutio’s sword was an old stoic English soldier’s weapon. In the Tudor period the audience would have recognised these symbols – like we might stereotype a person by the car they drive.
When walking around the incredibly informative exhibition, we learned many things about the history of London in the Shakespearean era. The displays included facts about instruments used in that time, and you could even listen to someone playing them. This interesting collection of wooden instruments produced very unique sounds and consisted of instruments such as the crumhorn or the shawm. The exhibition also contained information about buildings and architecture in that era. One of our favourite parts of the exhibition was the clothes, especially as we were able to try some on. Tudor clothes are very exuberant and colourful. All of us left the exhibition having learned something new.
During our visit, we were fortunate to watch a section of a rehearsal for A Midsummer’s Night Dream. This will be performed at The Globe this summer. Each group observed different sections of the play. The first group were lucky enough to enjoy two scenes: when Hermia sneaks into the forest with her lover Lysander and the scene when the mechanicals rehearse their play. This scene was very comical, as Bottom was very enthusiastic about playing all the roles in the play. Quince was giving the characters parts to play which were opposite to their personality. The actors came on stage from the yard, and planned to use an audience member on the stage during the performance, which will also make the play fun to watch.
The second group watched the rehearsal of the scene in which Titania, Queen of the Fairies, was tricked by a love potion into loving Bottom. They performed entertaining songs and this scene certainly made us laugh, especially as the actors performed some sections from a wheelie bin.
We all really enjoyed our day out and learnt a lot. It was a real privilege to watch professional actors rehearse and some of us hope to watch the play this summer.
Jointly written by English Group 1 Year 7