With tickets to the standing only section at the famous Globe Theatre being only £5, it’s too good of a deal to pass up! Standing feet (and sometimes even inches) away from the performers is an incredible opportunity, and should not be missed while in London. Even not being a huge fan of Shakespeare, I was pleasantly surprised by my evening at the Globe, and I’m so fortunate that I was able to be immersed in the vast history of theatre in London for an evening. I went to see Othello on July 23, at the Globe and here are a few things that I wish I would have known before I was a groundling at Shakespeare’s Globe.
Before we begin, I want to make clear that groundlings are a type of show reservations at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Groundlings will stand for the entirety of the show on the concrete surrounding the stage. Seriously, you will stand the entire time—there’s no getting around it! The attendants and the Globe monitor for individuals who are sitting, and ask them to stand again. Standing is required by all groundlings due to some strict fire codes at the Globe. Due to their proximity, groundlings will have an unobstructed view of the stage, and may even get to interact with the actors if they so choose!
It’s important to note that the yard where all of the groundlings stand is almost completely uncovered, and is open to the elements. If you’re planning on standing for the performance be sure to check the weather in London before your arrival. Bring rain jackets, hats, and wear appropriate clothing to make your experience at the Globe more desirable. Remember, umbrellas aren’t allowed so don’t bother attempting to bring in those! Speaking of proper attire, be sure to wear the comfiest shoes that you own. Don’t worry about being fashion forward, and instead be concerned about your comfort. Moreover, you’ll be in good company wearing your sneakers as a groundling at Shakespeare’s Globe. Most all of the people around me were wearing either Nike sneakers or some other comfort athletic shoe. The yard is one of the few places in London where comfort reins supreme.
When arriving, note that the most popular areas of the yard are the front next to the stage and the back along the walls. Either of these positions would be great as they allow you to lean on them when your legs get tired (and trust me, they will). If you can’t nab one of these places look for one of the columns to rest against to make your experience at the Globe a bit easier. If you want to stand in one of these popular spots, be sure to arrive earlier rather than later as these spots fill up quickly.
Depending on the play that’s on, the groundlings may become somewhat involved in the play. For example, those standing nearest the stage may be involved in conversation with the actors on stage, or may be asked to move as new props are rolled into the yard. It’s also common for actors to walk through and mingle with the groundlings. Depending on your extraversion levels, you may want to engage with the actors or not. If not, stand a bit further from the stage and the entrances to the yard and you’ll be left alone.
The standing itself does get tiresome as the play goes on, so be prepared for that. But for me, the standing was tolerable. I sat on the ground through the entirety of the intermission, and that defiantly helped. Just bring some water in with you to the Globe (it’s allowed!) or buy some at the concessions, and you’ll make it through.
Standing for an entire show can seem overwhelming, but it can be done and it is worth it to see a show live at the Globe. Even for those not particularly interested in Shakespeare (like me!) can benefit from a culturally enriching evening at the Globe. And maybe you’ll even learn something new, or fall in love with the theatre!
Have you ever been to the Globe? What’s your favorite Shakespeare play?