Shakespeare’s Globe is a little time capsule of Elizabethan England nestling among the high rise glass and concrete on the south bank of the Thames.
There you can see the works of the great playwright performed as they were in his day when theatre audiences weren’t so cossetted or polite.
But more than just a building, the Globe is an approach to drama – and you don’t have to be in London to find out what it’s all about.
At the end of March, a trip to Alnwick will do the trick. A Globe touring production of Romeo and Juliet is coming to the town’s Playhouse, following in the footsteps of Much Ado About Nothing which blazed a trail last year.
Theatre boss Jo Potts is delighted. “We were very lucky to have it last year but it was last minute programming,” she reveals.
“They wanted to find one other port of call and the producer was from Morpeth. He sent an email saying he’d love to bring it up here because he was from this part of the country and his mum used to work for Northumberland Theatre Company.
“I nearly fell off my seat. I knew that financially we probably couldn’t afford it but the Globe was prepared to do a deal because they really wanted it to work.”
It did work. Two performances at Alnwick Playhouse (262 seats plus four wheelchair places) sold out and people evidently loved what they saw.
Encouraged, the Globe company is coming back – this time with four performances.
“It’s a big financial commitment but they really wanted to come back,” says Jo. “They had a great time when they were up here last year and we really looked after them.”
The new Globe production of Romeo and Juliet, with Samuel Valentine and Cassie Layton playing the star-crossed lovers, opens in North Wales on March 25 and then comes straight to Alnwick.
The production is co-directed by Tim Hoare and Globe artistic director Dominic Dromgoole who will be leaving in April next year after 10 years at the helm.
According to Helena Miscioscia, of the Globe Theatre, the company’s Shakespearean approach to performing the work means that the house lights stay up and the actors acknowledge the audience and even strike up a relationship with them before the first line is spoken.
“A lot of the soliloquies are directed at the audience so there is no sense of separateness. Also, we have these eight actors who will perform different roles rather in the manner of an Elizabethan troupe touring around.
“The sets are quite small and there aren’t lots of elaborate costumes.”
As the Playhouse brochure puts it, this “stripped down version breathes new life into one of the greatest of all love stories”.
Jo Potts is delighted with the new spring/summer season at Alnwick Playhouse. Audiences have embraced the new phenomenon of live-streamed productions from the likes of the Metropolitan Opera, the Royal Opera, the Royal National Theatre and the RSC.
Now Jo is trying to direct them towards live performances.
Along with the Globe, she is delighted that Opera North are visiting with their co-production Swanhunter, not an opera about a North East shipyard but one based on a Finnish folk tale and, with its puppetry and English libretto, aimed at a family audience.
Others heading for the venue in the coming weeks include Ruby Turner, Maddy Prior, Courtney Pine, Mike Harding, Alexei Sayle and – demonstrating that Alnwick audiences have not become too highbrow – Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown.
As for the Globe, it is currently living up to its name. Not only is Romeo and Juliet about to tour, but it has a production of Hamlet that is half way through a world tour, the aim being that it should be seen in every country to mark next year’s 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 1616 (it is currently in Africa).
See Romeo and Juliet at Alnwick Playhouse on March 31, April 1 and April 2 at 7.30pm (with a 2pm matinee on April 2). Box office: 01665 510785 or www.alnwickplayhouse.co.uk