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A Little British History

October 30, 2013

Seeing as this is an American blog I thought I would introduce you to the amazing theatre establishments in England that I have been lucky enough to visit over the past couple of weeks.

Last week I was fortunate enough to see Macbeth at the Shakespeare’s Globe by the River Thames. As I’m sure you know it is a reconstruction of the original Globe that was built by Shakespeare’s playing company, the Chamberlain’s Men. The Shakespeare’s Globe Trust continue putting on traditional Shakespeare plays, 5 each year, as well as new plays or musicals and invites in travelling companies as well. It is a magnificent building with so much detail and history behind it. There is a ‘yard’ area that holds 700 people standing and then holds 857 people sitting, split onto 3 balcony levels. The stage has a gorgeous ornate backdrop with 3 entrances and 2 fake marbled pillars; unfortunately all this beautiful detail was hidden by the set design for Macbeth. None the less it is still a gorgeous venue, which I look forward to visiting again, even in the cold and rain.


photo credit

Our university teachers organised a talk from Mark Dakin, the technical manager at the National Theatre. The National Theatre is one of the most publicly funded theatre companies in the UK; this money allows them to put on traditional plays as well as producing new works such as the Light Princess which I will be seeing on the 17th of October. It has 3 theatres in the building as well as one temporary theatre space while they are going through a £80millon pound upgrade. If certain productions are highly successful they will move into the West End such as War Horse. It’s not a stunning building, like The Globe, however it’s pretty impressive what it does for British Theatre and the marvellous reputation it has.

Mark was kind enough to talk about his own history, the history of the National Theatre and gave us an insight into the production process that goes on, which includes lots of complicated calendars that show the annual, monthly, weekly and daily plans of each theatre! He gave lots of fabulous tips including

  • Ask lots of questions; when you meet professionals so you know how they got there, during the production planning process so you are never surprised etc, about yourself to find out where you want to be and who you are.
  • Keep a journal of everything inc. business cards, diagrams, ideas you have, things you’ve learnt etc.
  • We need technical excellence, resilience, creativity, innovation, soft skills and the ability to reflect on what we have done.
  • How theatre is changing to be more eco-friendly and more organic during the production process

Over the past few weeks I have fallen more in love with British theatre especially the iconic theatres and companies that have changed our history. Obviously I still love the West End (I have seen Wicked for the fourth time and am going to see Spamalot next week) but I now want to explore more while I have the chance and the opportunities!

Heather Sig

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 30, 2013 11:59 am

    Love this – so great! And so perfect because I’m actually on an ongoing assignment to find out as much about what’s going on with British Theatre as possible – in particular the off-off west end stuff. Do you have any recommendations for websites, theatres, shows in regards to what’s happening on the indie side of things? Thanks, Tattooed! 🙂


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