English-Speaking Cultures
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2016 Excursion “Shakespeare’s London and Shakespeare’s Globe”

An Overview

The Shakespeare’s London Shakespeare’s Globe excursion of 2016 (August 15th to 22nd, 2016) started on a sunny Monday 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 Accommodation to discuss organisational matters of the trip.

With a first night off to settle in, everyone could get a fresh start on Tuesday 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 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 , Bear Garden and The Golden Hinde . Over dinner at the historic George Inn, everyone could wind down from a walk-intensive day and exchange their impressions from things they had seen.

Wednesday’s motto was “Sacred & Secular”, very fitting for a visit to The Inns of Court , Smithfields Market, St. Bartholomew’s Hospital and St. Bartholomew the Great . Interspersed throughout the walk were short on-site student presentations that gave further insight into the life of Elizabethan London.

Thursday was entirely dedicated to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. In the morning, a Globe Education lecturer presented on “Understanding the Theatre Spaces: An Introduction and Tour of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse,” which was followed by an exploration of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre itself. Afterwards we watched a performance of Machbeth where the students could experience the written word of Shakespeare come to life. 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. The day was then completed with a lecture entitled “Machbeth: The added scenes and the missing scenes.”

Friday, the fifth day of Shakespearean explorations, went under the headline of “Monarchs, Money & Madness”. After our first practical workshop at the Globe Theatre entitled “Playing the Globe,” we set out on our walk. 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 a rather quit day, Friday gave the students the chance to relax along the River Thames in the evening.

On Saturday, our second-to-last day, we gathered in front of the hostel and headed back to the Rose Theatre for an unexpected tour. After the spontaneous, though entertaining and informative, visit to Rose we embarked on our originally planned and final walk of the excursion called “Shakespeare in Blackfriars.” At Blackfriars we were able to see various historical sites including Temple Church, the Apothecaries’ Hall, the original site of the Blackfriars Monastery, Shakespeare’s gatehouse and St Ann Blackfriars’ churchyard. We then made our way to Trafalgar Square for the National Portrait Gallery. From the Gallery we meandered past Westminster Abbey, St. Margaret’s Church and even got to see the oldest part of the Houses of Parliament at Westminster Hall finally arriving at Westminster pier for a boat trip down to Greenwich. There we visited the Museum of London Docklands, which included a magnificent two-sided model of London Bridge. After the arriving back in London we had the night to ourselves in order to conserve our energy for our final day of the excursion.

Sunday, 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 a short break we returned to the Globe Theatre for our second practical workshop called “Playing the Globe.” Following the workshop we filed into the theatre for a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. On Monday, 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.