|Subject: UK 2001 Part 4 (long)(extracts)|
I got to the new Globe theatre by about 10. There was a tour of the theatre at 10:30 so I spent a half hour looking at the first bit of the exhibition in the adjoining building. This part went into the history of the rebuilding of the Globe, a project spearheaded by American actor Sam Wanamaker who worked tirelessly raising money for 20 years. The original Globe was one street away from the present location but that property was not available. Around the outside of the theatre are bricks in the pavement that were sold for £300 in exchange for which the owner's name is carved in the brick for all to see. You can still buy a normal smaller brick for a pound if you wish. The theatre, which can hold 900 in the seating area and 600 in the Yard which is a bit of a squash admittedly, is entirely self supporting and the most expensive ticket is only £20.
The original Globe was built in 1599 and was actually moved to Bankside from a location North of London and was owned by Richard Burbadge along with the company of performers. A very early co-op! You would get to the theatre by ferry boat and there were no tickets sold in advance. Royalty would not have attended as portrayed in some movies. They would summon the troupe for a private performance at one of the Royal Palaces.
The tour took the better part of an hour. We were taken outside for an explanation of how the theatre was built using methods and materials identical to those from the early 17th C. This building is the only thatch building in London and they had to have special permission from the fire department to do it. It is lined with sprinklers for safety. Inside the building we heard about how it would have been to attend a play in such a theatre in late Elizabethan times. There is no metal used in the construction of the wooden theatre other than some ornamental pieces on the doors and some used in the floor and seating structure. The beams supporting it are aged oak and the plaster is a mixture of water, sand and lots of goat hair, just the way it would have been 400 years ago. The brick base is made of copies of 17th C style brick as well. Because there were no existing plans of the interior, it's a best guess. There are however, lights for evening performances.
The stage is thrust out into the audience instead of in a picture frame sort of setting so you can see the actors no matter where you sit or stand. The Yard or floor is standing room only and you can buy tickets to see a play from the Yard for five pounds. In Shakespeare's day, this would cost you a penny. The theatre is circular with pine benches in three tiers of galleries. The stage is oak and sheltered by a magnificent canopy supported by two huge oak trees painted to look like marble pillars. The boards are painted each season depending on performance or theme although this season they were left bare to see how it would work as the plays this season were mostly done in modern dress. When I was there in late September the season had just finished. The theatre is open to the sky and plays are performed rain or shine with rain slickers provided if necessary. No umbrellas as they would block the view. They also used the theatre for other types of performances from comedy to music. Every year one country is invited to do a production of a Shakespeare play in their own native language. This year's was in Brazil's Portuguese and one year there was a Zulu production of The Scottish Play.
I went back and saw the rest of the theatre exhibition which I really enjoyed and I really recommend if you are a theatre fan at all. It details the history of theatre in London and the history of the South Bank area. There are loads of interactive multimedia displays on monitors, with interesting things like the various ways they used to produce sound and special effects in Elizabethan theatre. There was a display of musical instruments from that time, all hanging in a glass case and a nearby touch screen that you could use to find out about the different pieces including how they sounded. Downstairs there is an area that displays costumes and costume making, props, printing from that era, even a couple of sound booths with audio clips of various famous actors from this century performing. There were even scratchy sounding very old clips from the early part of the century. One modern actor was Sir John Geilgud though I was surprised that Sir Lawrence Olivier or Richard Burton weren't featured in addition.
There is a lot to see, a very good gift shop and a good café with a limited menu for a light lunch. Eventually I found myself down by the London Eye observation wheel. I have been of two minds all week whether to fly the Eye, but there was no lineup today whatsoever and that made my mind up for me. I was able to buy a ticket in County Hall and walk right into a pod after two security guards checked my purse first.
The complete circuit takes a half hour to the minute nearly. The weather was more or less clearing though very little blue sky was visible. Still a decent enough day for the view. The compartments can hold 20 people each and there's a bench in the middle to sit on if you are nervous about standing too close to the glass wall. You don't feel the movement at all, not even a rumble from a motor! You move so slowly that the only way you can tell you are even moving at all is because your eyes tell you that you are going up. About halfway up one side even my eyes started to fool me. The scene didn't look as if it was changing at all and I thought we were stopped. There comes a point where you are above the buildings far enough that it really is difficult to tell if you are going up or down. The next thing I knew, we were cresting over the top and my brain then told my eyes that yes, things were farther down than they were 10 minutes ago. The views were spectacular. Taking photos is possible although you will probably get some reflection of the light off the glass walls. I was even able to see a bit of the Tower Bridge between two office blocks.
You only get the once around the circle and you're off.
I decided to walk down through the City of London, also known as the Square Mile, and gawp at the architecture and search out the remains of the Christopher Wren churches hiding among the newer office towers. The weather is sunny but not too hot, perfect for walking.
I first headed south down Bishopsgate from the train station. I saw a lovely large official looking building with a gate and court yard that was opposite the National Westminster bank tower. If anyone knows what it is, let me know! I walked all around Threadneedle street, Leadenhall Market, Cornhill, King William Street, passed by Lloyd's, the newish building with all the words on the outside, heating pipes, elevators etc. Leadenhall market is a covered Victorian arcade with some nice shops and cafes though I had thought it would be a stall type market. I walked down Lombard Street where the old banks used to be centuries ago. There are still little signs with all types of shapes hanging outside many of the doors, some dated back to the 1500's. One in particular I saw was a grasshopper and another was an eagle. These were the symbols for the various banks, like today's logos.
There are numerous narrow little alleyways and courtyards all over the place. I followed some of them and found other businesses tucked away, or an old door that looked like it might have been from an old church but which led nowhere. Another building in a hidden courtyard had two lovely sculptured lions at the base of it's front staircase. There are a lot of churches, most of which were rebuilt by Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of 1666. They are squeezed and fitted in behind newer buildings. Some have tiny churchyards that you can find by walking around behind the newer building to track down the lane that leads to it. Some churchyards have benches and gardens as well. The names are very old fashioned too, St. Peter Cornhill, St. Edmund the King and St. Dunstan.
Near the 202 foot Monument to the fire and a hop and a skip from London Bridge is St. Magnus the Martyr. This church was rebuilt after the fire and then had to be rebuilt and restored again after severe bomb damage in WWII. The floor of the main aisle contains memorial flagstones and there are marble memorials lining the walls. Most of the stained glass is post-war except for one circular one in the corner. The south wall contains tall stained glass depicting Saints Margaret, Magnus, Thomas and Michael and there's a statue of a fierce looking bloke in Viking kit representing St. Magnus himself. The rest of the floors are blackened wood, oak probably.
The first mention of a church on this site was in the late 11th C. It's right near the river very close to where the original London Bridge was which is a little east of the current structure. There's a plaque in the churchyard that says the yard was probably used as the main thoroughfare to the old bridge and there's a model of the bridge inside the church. Also, secured against a stone pillar outside is a very old post of fossilized wood that was discovered nearby in the 1930's and has been dated back to Roman times, probably an old wharf support.
I explored a bit and walked down Eastcheap where there were a few very interesting architectural touches on some buildings across from the Starbucks where I stopped for a cuppa.
About a block from Starbucks there was another church tower I saw. I went down the side street to the entrance and found that there was nothing left of St. Dunstan's in the East which was rebuilt after the fire but demolished and rebuilt again in 1817. Nothing left but a few bits of walls still standing from a bombed out shell although the Wren tower had been restored after a bomb destroyed most of it in WWII. The remaining walls are covered in ivy and there is a little park built there, with a small fountain ringed with benches. The sun was streaming down though, lighting the water and warming the people sitting and reading newspapers or quietly chatting.
A few blocks later I spotted a pub called Hung Drawn and Quartered about a block from the Tower of London and gave in to the temptations of a pint and a hot meal of scampi. This looks to be a late Victorian or Edwardian interior. The pub is aptly named. There is a rope noose hanging from a fixture in the ceiling over the bar!
At EasyEverything an internet cafe, owned by EasyJet, the discount airline, I purchased two hours on a voucher for a pound an hour, and set to wading through over 100 emails waiting for me. I used up all but 30 minutes. The little card with the login is still usable if I get to another one before I leave the country but I never did.
I was close to Covent Garden so I went up there. I always liked this area of London. I found the shop that former Corrie actor Peter Baldwin manages but he wasn't there. It's a little shop that sells miniature reproduction theatres, called Pollock's Toy Shop Another browse in another Past Times and then I just walked out of the square a different way than I ever had before, finally seeing the front of the Royal Opera House! I went down Neal Street that comes out in a wonderful little court called Neal's Yard. This area has a number of unusual or trendy shops including an Astrology store. By the time I got to Neal's Yard, the populace was looking decidedly funkier to match the shops I guess! The courtyard was strewn with green and purple flagged banners, the buildings where brightly painted, the one or two trees where green and leafy and the sun was trying to get past the 4 or 5 storey buildings to reach the small open space and cast a late afternoon glow over it all. There were cafes with tables and chairs on the pavement, a few benches, some young people around with hair that happened to match the banners in it's hues and the smell of freshly baked bread permeated the already lively atmosphere. Must come back here again but time is of the essence.
Tonight we went into the seaside resort town of Southend which isn't far from Leigh, for fish and chips. Southend has the longest pleasure pier in England and it and the seafront promenade are lined with arcades and pubs. There are several amusement parks with rides as well though they were closed at night and there's a large casino on the waterfront as well. There were strings of lights and neon illuminations crossing a mile or so of the main prom which was kind of neat. The illuminations were figures like flowers, birds, clowns, and other figures, some animated and some not, all made of coloured neon strings of lights. There's also a beach here and this resort is very popular with East End London families in the summer, a short train journey from the smoke and noise of the city.
The chippie we went to is called Baileys and I finally had my fish and chips! Huge portions too! The shop was deep and narrow with wooden tables and chairs and had a somewhat fast food atmosphere to get through the hungry queues of customers. The walls are painted brightly though and the food was very good. After eating we walked along the prom as it was a really nice night. We drove through Old Leigh on the waterfront on the way home. Leigh did and still does earn it's living from the sea. Southend is just near the mouth of the River Thames estuary. We're going to see Warwick Castle tomorrow afternoon and stop in Lichfield on Sunday before I make my way to Manchester for the next leg of the trip. Diane Johnston