English-Speaking Cultures
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2013 Excursion “Shakespeare’s London and Shakespeare’s Globe”

An Overview

The Shakespeare’s London Shakespeare’s Globe excursion of 2013 started on a sunny Saturday evening with a communal visit of the Riverside Inn right next to the River Thames. After a round of delicious pies and cider, and a marvellous view on the sunset over London’s skyline, the group moved to the ‘headquarters’ of Bankside Accomodation to discuss organisational matters of the trip.

With a first night off to settle in, everyone could get a fresh start on Sunday for the first walking tour entitled “Historic & Holy.” As the title suggests, the tour led past a number of churches and straight  to the Museum of London [http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/London-Wall/] for an informative display of London’s lively history. This was followed by another tour called “Saints and Stews” along the River Thames through Southwark, London’s former entertainment district. Not only did this walk lead right past the Globe Theatre (both the remains of the old one and the building of the new one), but it also entailed the site of the Rose Theatre [http://www.rosetheatre.org.uk/] , Bear Garden and The Golden Hinde [http://goldenhinde.com/] . Over dinner at the historic George Inn [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_George_Inn,_Southwark] , everyone could wind down from a walk-intensive day and exchange their impressions from things they had seen.

Monday’s motto was “Sacred & Secular”, very fitting for a visit to The Inns of Court [http://www.sphericalimages.com/middletemple] , Smithfields Market, St. Bartholomew’s Hospital and St. Bartholomew the Great [http://www.greatstbarts.com/] . Interspersed throughout the walk were short on-site student presentations that gave further insight into the life of Elizabethan London.

Tuesday was entirely dedicated to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. The first day at the Globe Education Centre consisted of several workshops on Shakespearean theatre, both providing historical contextual knowledge and hands-on experience. In the morning, Dr. Derek Dunne lectured on “Early Modern Theatre Buildings and Companies,” which was followed by an exploration of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre itself. Afterwards, Philip Bird, a Globe Education lecturer with years of active experience on the Globe’s stage, gave his first practical workshop called "Playing the Globe" [http://www.shakespearesglobe.com/education] . The day was completed by a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where the students could experience the written word of Shakespeare come alive on stage. Standing like Elizabethan “groundlings” around the foot of the stage offered a unique view from ‘below’– theatre like most people had never experienced it before.

Wednesday was another highlight of the trip with yet another day at the Globe. It started off with “Playing the Globe”, Part Two, the second practical workshop with Philip Bird. After intensive work on Shakespeare’s language and highly enjoyable student group performances where everyone got to try acting abilities, the students saw another memorable performance at the Globe, this time viewing The Tempest. Afterwards, the Globe Education team kindly scheduled an extra event for the group: a ‘Howard on Stage and Screen’ lecture in which Professor Tony Howard of Warwick University gave entertaining and surprising insights into his research on film versions of The Tempest.

Thursday, the fifth day of Shakespearean explorations, went under the headline of “Monarchs, Money & Madness”. As part of another walking tour, the group visited London Bridge, the Monument to the Great Fire of London, Gracechurch Street, Leadenhall Market and St. Andrew Undershaft. Being one a rather quit day, Thursday gave the students the chance to relax along the River Thames in the evening.

Friday, the last official day of the excursion, offered a real treat and a glorious finale to an eventful week: a backstage tour of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre accompanied by a former Stage Manager. Aptly titled “From Heaven to Hell”, the tour led from the playhouse’s attic all the way to the stage’s underbelly beneath the trapdoor. The actors’ green room and the costume storage backstage were only a few of the highlights in store. After spending the day either at the Tower of London or on a boat trip to Greenwich, some of the students got to together for a voluntary final visit to the Globe, viewing a stunning performance of MacBeth in the evening hours. On Saturday, everyone returned to Bremen and parted ways.

Altogether, the excursion was a great success with the students. Not only did they get an opportunity to practice their speaking abilities intensively in an English-speaking environment, but they also were able to deepen their knowledge of many facets of everyday-life in Shakespeare’s London by attending lectures of British experts in the field. Especially the high degree of active student participation – be that through acting workshops, hands-on work on Shakespeare’s texts or simply seeing Shakespeare’s plays performed on stage – was much appreciated by the group and made this trip an unforgettable experience for everyone.