Top tips from an experienced Groundling
By uczlkrj, on 13 July 2016
International Summer School for Undergraduates Social Programme: A Midsummer Night’s Dream on Thursday 14th of July and Wednesday 3rd of August.
I’ve seen a lot of productions at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, it is without question one of my all-time favourite venues and the £5 standing “Groundling” ticket is – irony intended- the best seat in the house. As a Groundling, you’re part of the action as actors move through the crowd, the yard becomes Birnam Wood moving towards Dunsinane (Macbeth) or the citizens of Rome, who’ve come to hear Brutus and Mark Antony speak (Julius Ceasar) to name but a few examples. Even without that freedom to move the performance beyond the stage, the Globe creates a unique space in which to experience theatre because the actors can see their audience, their reactions and respond to it. It creates an atmosphere as the sun starts to set that’s nothing short of magical.
Emma Rice took over as Artistic Director at the start of the 2016 Summer Season from Dominic Dromgoole (after a 6 month handover), she’s looking to tap into that sense of magic and named her first season: Wonder
❛I hope that my first season will inspire joy, sorrow, fear and laughter in equal, glorious, wonderful, childlike measure as we all choose to get lost in the woods together❜
Emma Rice on #WonderSeason
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the first Globe show to be directed by Emma Rice, is included on the International Summer School for Undergraduates Social Programme on Thursday 14th of July and Wednesday 3rd of August. Take a sneak peak at the show’s production photos here
In anticipation of those events, I’ve gathered up my Top Tips for Groundlings:
Eat dinner before the performance.
In all my years as a groundling, I’ve almost fainted once. I went to a matinee and skipped lunch, so I speak from personal experience when I say you should eat something before the performance starts. There is no need to worry though, if you do feel faint you’ll be well looked after by the Globe Stewards (more on them below) however it’s a rare occurrence unless there’s a heatwave or it’s Titus Andronicus.
Get there early
Groundlings enter Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre via what’s known as Groundling Gate on Bankside. Experienced Groundlings will start to queue at Groundling Gate from as early as 18.00 to secure a good spot inside the yard once they’re allowed in which is normally around 19.00.
Opinions are divided on what the best place to stand in the yard is. Personally, I prefer standing at the back so you can lean against the lower gallery. Others I know, like standing right at the very front where you can lean on the stage but it does mean you have to look up the entire time. On the plus side, if you stood at the very front during the 2014 production of Antony and Cleopatra, you had a chance of being kissed by Eve Best.
Some productions have extensions to the stage, which would be another top pick as somewhere to stand so you can lean on something and be close to the action. Having said all that though, I don’t think there is a bad place to stand in the yard, it’s all a question of personal preference.
Bring extra layers of clothing
The performance will continue if it rains so bring a mac or a raincoat. Umbrellas are not allowed as they block other people’s view so make sure you have something you can throw on in case it rains. It can get quite chilly towards the end of the performance so bring an extra layer you can put on. Even if you only use it for the walk to the tube station afterwards.
Wear comfortable shoes
I think this one speaks for itself. [I have stood in the yard in heels but that was for a short student sharing of scenes. I would not recommend it for a full, 3 hour long, performance]
Bring a bottle of water and something sweet
3 hours is a long time so make sure you stay hydrated, you can refill them at water fountains on site. I also always bring a bag of sweets, so I have something on hand when I need a boost of energy.
The Stewards are AWESOME!
You’ll recognise them by their Globe aprons and those who are also first aiders wear a name badge with a white and green cross on it. The Globe Stewards are amazing, they are all volunteers and are extremely useful people to know. They know the run time, how long to the interval, fastest way to the tube station when you leave, etc. With the rest of the front of house team, they’re there for the audience’s safety so they are really key to each performance. They will help to clear the path for actors coming though the yard and be the first responders if someone is unwell, so if a steward asks you to move so they can get through, please do so.
You can take photographs to your hearts content before and after the performance and during the interval. During the performance however the taking of photographs and the use of recording devises is strictly prohibited. Unlike most theatres though, there are no house lights to dim or a curtain to raise to signal the performance has started. The general rule is therefore that as soon as a musician or an actor appears on stage or anywhere in the theatre, the performance has started, even if they’ve not said a word yet. From this point, you are no longer allowed to take photos or make video or audio recordings. The Stewards will issue gentle reminders to anyone who tries to take a photograph once the performance has started.
Seeing a play at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre should be on everyone’s London Bucket List and I hope you’ll join us on Thursday 14th of July or Wednesday 3rd of August. Oh, and if you do come along to Globe this summer… Ask me about the rocking horse…
Manager of the International Summer School for Undergraduates