The Globe Theatre is based on the original Globe Theatre that was first opened in 1599 and was home to the theatre company of which William Shakespeare was a member. Located at 21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, it stands very close to the site of the original Elizabethan Theatre. The present Globe Theatre was the brainchild of the American actor and director Sam Wanamaker, and was built from a design by the architect Theo Crosby. It is the first thatched roofed building to be allowed in London since the disaster of the Great Fire of London in 1666. A visitor centre was introduced as a new addition.
Every effort was made to keep construction methods and materials as close to the original Globe as possible, green English oak was used form the main structure of the building which is held in place by the use of wooden pegs. An original recipe was used to mix the plaster in which goat hair was added to act as a binder. The whole structure was painted in a traditional lime wash.
Crosby’s design for the new Globe Theatre is based on that of its Elizabethan forefather which was demolished in 1644 two years after Puritans forced the closure of all London theatres in 1642. In an attempt to construct the Globe as close to the original as possible, Crosby based his design from a sketch by Dutch student Johannes de Witt, which he drew while on a visit to London in 1596. The sketch itself was of another theatre of the time The Swan. It had been stated in writings that the Swan was of a similar design to the Globe, so in reality the Globe we see today is in fact a “best effort” in trying to recreate the original.
Despite all the efforts to recreate the original Globe as accurately as possible there have been additions to comply with modern building regulations. The thatch has been sprayed with fire retardant chemicals and a sprinkler system has been introduced. The backstage area was increased to accommodate both the actors and technical staff. Further additions are a modern lighting and sound system.
The open area is referred to as the pit or yard, there is a raised stage to one end that protrudes almost half way into the pit area. There are three tiers of roofed galleries and balconies, some of which overlook the rear of the stage. The theatre has a total capacity of 1600, 700 standing in the pit area and 900 seated in the galleries. Access to the balconies and galleries are via two sets of external stairs on either side of the stage. As in Elizabethan times, the covered seats are the most expensive, the rest, and the standing room in the pit area is open to the elements. For this reason plays are not performed here during the winter months, although tours of the theatre are still available.