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Posts Tagged ‘Shakespeare’s London’

Shakespeare’s London – Theatre Walks

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

It seems unbelievable that the year is now a quarter of the way through. As we move into Summer we are forging ahead with our free London walks and are pulling out all the stops to ensure that we send the first of these live in the next few weeks.

We’ve been busily editing our films that accompany the walks and the podcasts are coming together nicely.

Very soon you’ll have everything you will need to enjoy a free walking tour of London. From being able to watch it on line, to being able to download it to your mobile phone, or even just printing it off from the free pdf that will accompany each of the London walking tours we will be offering.

As another taster for what you can expect we’ve now uploaded a snippet of the film that will be accompanying the free walk of Shakespeare’s London.

Hope you enjoy it.

Walks Through London With Shakespeare

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

We’ll soon have the first of our many free London Walking Tours ready to roll.

In the mean time though we thought we’d give you a little taster of what our London walks are going to be like.

We’re going to pack an awful lot into these tours and they’re going to be very interactive. What with step by step directions, glorious photographs, little video snippets and an awful lot more.

Anyway here’s a taster of  the free Shakespeare London walk accompanying video.  Hope you enjoy it.

Shakespeare’s London – A Walk Through History

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Continuing the little tasters of our free London walks we have added an extra video providing you with a brief introduction of Shakespeare’s London. This is just a brief taster of the free Walking tours we are rolling out this year.

Based on the huge success of our Harry Potter Walking Tour we’re going to be providing lots of ways for you to enjoy our free tours of London.

You’ll be able to watch the video’s, listen to them as podcasts, download them as a printable pdf and generally get to see a side of London that is both intriguing and fascinating in equal measure.

We’ve been filming over 50 London walks throughout the winter. But as you will see from the Shakespeare film, these won’t just be walking tours, but will also provide dramatic reconstructions that will transport you back to the times against which each walk is set.

We’ll also be adding out of London jaunts to Bath, Oxford, Stratford, Cambridge, York and Edinburgh.

It’s going to be a great year for those of you who enjoy expoloring London at your own pace and at a time that suits you. So please enjoy our little taster of the Shakespeare Walk.

Shakespeare London walks

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Although William Shakespeare is most associated with Stratford upon Avon, it was in fact in London that he made his name.

He arrived in London at some stage between 1587 and 1592 where he established himself as an actor and then as a writer. On our Walks in Shakespeare’s London we take you to the places that Shakespeare knew.

These, of course, include the obvious locations such as Bankside where the Globe Theatre was located. But there is so much more to Shakespeare’s London than this.

There’s a good chance that, as he came into London he traipsed his way along Holborn. If that’s the case he would have trudged past a black and white timbered building that still looks down on to Holborn today. Staple Inn dates from 1576 and is the only example left in London of the domestic architecture of Shakespeares’s day.

No far from Staple Inn you will find Gray’s Inn Hall where the first performance of A Comedy of Errors was given.

On our Secret London walks, we take you through Shakespeare’s Lost City encountering the site on which Shakespeare lived during much of his time in London. We also take you to St John’s Gate, which was once part of a monastery but which by Shakespeare’s day was the office of the Matser of the Revels, the official whose job it was to licence plays for performance.

The London building that looms over so many of Shakespeare’s plays is The Tower of London, indeed it is mentioned more by him than any other London building. So it is a must on any exploration of Shakespeare’s London.

So why not have a look at our various London walks and see for yourself what a wonderful and fascinating City London is.

A London Pub Walks Update

Monday, November 9th, 2009

The Paracon 2009 in Dublin went well and Richard gave his talk on the supernatural aspects of the Jack the Ripper case. Saturday night saw him joining a ghost hunt at Wicklow Gaol that finished at 2.30am.

Sunday he flew back to London and is now updating his new series of London walks. Today he is off to stroll the banks of the River Thames adding the finishing touches to the Riverside London Pub Walk. There are a few creases to iron out before it goes live and photographs are going to be added to the finished London walk. In addition we’re looking at adding something slightly unique to this particular London walk.

The response to these free London walks has been great and many of you have written to say how much they have enjoyed taking the walks we offer in London and in Rochester.

We are even looking at our next free walk PDF and it is likely to be a wander around the London of William Shakespeare.

This will, of course, include the area of Bankside where the Globe Playhouse was located, but it will also include the lesser known aspects of Shakespeare’s Lost City. Another one of the Free London Walking Tours that is currently being worked on is a tour London sightseeing bus tour that you will be able to do using your Oyster or Travel Card.

Then, of course, you can still join our nightly guided Jack the Ripper Tour of London. This goes seven chilling nights a week and costs just £7 per person.

As with our Free London walks we like to make our Jack the Ripper Tour different in that we are the only one of the companies offering London walks that limits the number on our Jack the Ripper walk to a sensible and manageable number. To help us do this we ask you to book in advance.

So keep an eye on our blog as there are some great new walks and tours comin up over the next six months.

Venus and rags – Walks of London

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

Our London walks of Art, or as we like to say London is a walk of art, are going great guns.

We have nearly completed are London Walking Tour around Tate Modern and today have decided to make a return visit to the Energy and Process wing of Tate Modern.

Having nimbly dodged Richard Serra’s massive work Trip Hammer, which consists of two pieces of steel balanced precariously one on top of the other.

Having ducked as you pass Nikki de Saint Phalle’s Shooting Paintings. Having averted your gaze as you pass through a room in which a film showing nudity is constantly playing, you arrive at a statue of Venus that confronts a huge mound of coloured, and colourful rags.

Now we cover a lot of statues on our various London walks, but this particular one is, to say the least, somewhat bizarre.

Venus of the Rags was created in 1967 and then recreated in 1974.

It is a work by the Italian Artist Michaelangelo Pistoletto, a central figure in the Arte Povero movement.

Arte Povero was an Italian art movement of the late 1960′s and early 1970′s.

This was a time of great social upheaval, not only in Italy but also across the reat of Europe and in North America.

This was the era of Vietnam, and age marked by mass protests, riots and strikes.

In Italy a group of artists began attacking the vlaues of the established institutions of government, industry and even of popular culture.

They wanted to create art that was free of the demands of the market place.

Thus the Arte Povera movement was born.

In our next blog we will look at the work of Pistoletto, who was a central figure in this movement.

For now why not take a look at the various and varied London walks we offer.? You can join to explore Shakespeare’s London, Dickens London, or even the London of Jack the Ripper.

Shakespeare Walks in London

Monday, June 15th, 2009

On our London walks that take you through the places that Shakespeare would have known we pass the New Globe Playhouse that looms majestically on the south side of the River Thames across from St. Paul’s Cathedral.

However, we also delve in to the backstreets around Bankside and, as we do so, we encounter a plaque on a wall along Park Street that marks the site of the original Globe Playhouse – the theatre at which Shakespeare worked and at which audiences first thrilled to the words of the immortal Bard.

It was at the Globe that Shakespeare spent much of his career and on our London walks that cover this part of London we introduce you to the streets and people that he would have known.

The leading actor of the company (originally the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, later [1603] the King’s Men) was Richard Burbage. Other actors included Augustine Phillips, William Sly, John Heminges, Henry Condell, Cuthbert Burbage, Thomas Pope and William Kempe.

Will Kempe was the great jester of the Burbage company, having pioneered the roles of Peter in Romeo and Juliet and Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing, but in 1602 the restless and eccentric Kempe left the company to dance the Morris from London to Norwich. Having achieved this to his satisfaction, Kempe then danced over the Alps and out of the history of the Globe.

He was replaced by Robert Armin, a much more subtle comic and tragedian than his predecessor. It was Armin who in 1605 first played the Fool in King Lear with Richard Burbage in the title role.

The Globe, in common with the other public theatres of the time, was a circular (in fact polygonal) structure, with three tiers of galleries surrounding an open inner circular space into which the stage projected. The audience could stand or sit in front of it. Above the stage was a turret containing pulleys and devices for swinging things or people onto the stage.

There were also cannon balls to be rolled across the floor of the ‘tiring house’ for effects such as thunder, and stage cannons for the alarms of war. From the turret flew a flag with a globe upon it to announce a performance in progress, and a trumpeter would sound out from the turret to summon the crowds.

The Globe burned down on 29 June 1613, during the first night of Shakespeare’s Henry Bacon, Sir Henry Wotton described the event thus:

The King’s players had a new play, called ‘All is True’, representing some principal pieces from the reign of Henry VIII, which was set forth with many extraordinary circumstances of pomp and majesty, even to the matting of the stage, the Knights of the Order with their Georges and garters, the Guards with their embroidered coats, and the like: sufficient in truth within a while to make greatness very familiar, if not ridiculous. Now, King Henry making a masque at Cardinal Wolsey’s house, and certain chambers being shot off at his entry, some of the paper, or other stuff, wherewith one of them was stopped, did light on the thatch, where being thought at first but an idle smoke, and their eyes more attentive to the show, it kindled inwardly, and ran round like a train, consuming within less than an hour the whole house to the very grounds.

This was the fatal period of that virtuous fabric, wherein yet nothing did perish but wood and straw, and a few foresaken cloaks; only one man had his breeches set on fire, that would perhaps have broiled him, if he had not by benefit of a provident wit put it out with bottle ale.

The Globe was rebuilt and was open again by 1614, but Shakespeare seems to have decided that this was the time to retire.

He went home to Stratford-upon-Avon, where he died three years later in 1616.

On our Shakespeare’s London walk we stand on the spot where many of his most stirring words first echoed and ponder how in The Tempest, written in either late 1612 or early 1613, Shakespeare seems almost to have anticipated the end of the Globe:-

Our revels now are ended.
These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind.
We are such stuff As dreams are made on,
and our little life Is rounded with a sleep.

The Tempest

The Globe continued with John Fletcher replacing Shakespeare as the playwright. But finally, along with the other theatres, it was suppressed by the Civil War Parliament of 1642 and pulled down.

On 12 October 1989, during redevelopment of the modern buildings that now stand on this site, archaeolog¬ists discovered what are believed to be the foundations of both Globe theatres.

The remnants are now preserved beneath the car park beyond the wall where the information boards that now adorn the site and which provide a little history on the age of Shakespeare.

It really is a poignant moment of our South London walks when we stand at this site and ponder the golden age of English theatre when Shakespeare’s words once sounded out around these very streets.

Shakespearean Wanderings

Friday, May 15th, 2009

Shakespeare’s London

As our Shakespeare’s London walks make their way along Park Street – on the south side of the River Thames from St. Paul’s Cathedral – we pass an alley called Rose Alley. On an office building nearby there is a blue plaque marking the site of the Rose Playhouse “The first Elizabethan Theatre on Bankside.”

In 1587 Philip Henslow,a carpenter turned theatrical impresario,purchased a plot of land on this site. Today just the aforementioned nondescript alleyway and blue plaque commemorate it, although its remains were re-discovered in 1989 and are now preserved under the unsightly office block.

Indeed, there is little on the site today to suggest that this is perhaps one of the most important theatrical sites in the world. Why? Because it was on this spot in 1592 that Shakespeare emerged from his so-called “lost years” and stepped into the spotlight of documented history as a playwright whose plays were beginning to pull in the audiences as well as if not better than the more established University educated playwrights such as Robert Greene, of whom more later.

Philip Henslowe was a business man to whom the takings of the various plays he staged were important. In early 1592 he had spent the considerable sum of £105 (almost £50,000 by today’s values) renovating the Rose Playhouse. We know this because he kept detailed records of his income and expenditure.

According to his diary, now preserved at Dulwich College, his newly refurbished theatre re-opened on 19th February 1592 with Robert Greene’s Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay. The attendance was poor and Henslowe’s share of the takings was a measly 17 shillings and thrupence, the equivalent of 86 pence today.

Two days later another Robert Greene play Orlando fared even worse and brought in just 16 shillings and 6 pence. Things improved slightly on the 26th February when Marlowes The Jew of Malta brought in 50 shillings.

But then, on the 3rd March 1592, Henslowe records that he staged a play called Harry the sixth.

This play broke box office records and netted him 3 pounds 16 shillings and 8 pence, close to £2,000 in today’s money. Three days later another performance of the same play brought in £3, whereas another Robert Greene play A Looking Glass For London and England made just 7 shillings.

In all Henslowe would stage Henry V1 fourteen times in the next three months and would make some £30 in the process.

And we know today, although the audience then probably didn’t know – and to be honest even if they had of known they probably wouldn’t have cared much – that the plays author was William Shakespeare.

So by 1592 Shakespeare’s talent as a writer had seen him trounce some of the more established playwrights at the box office, and for Robert Greene at least the prospect of a man who he apparently considered to be an ill educated country bumpkin daring to win better audiences than him was, quite simply, too much.

Robert Greene’s is a sad story. He was an educated man who had attained a Masters degree from Cambridge University. He had a wife and a son, but he spent her inheritance and then abandoned both of them.

By 1592 he had sunk as low as any man of letters could. He was eeking out an existence churning out pamphlets on the cardsharps, the bawdy houses and the brothels of low-life London, the London that he knew only too well. He had a mistress who bore him another son and without any apparent sense of irony the destitute Greene named the infant Fortunatus.

By August 1592 Greene health was failing rapidly and he would have found himself dying in the gutter had it not been for the charity of Mr and Mrs Isam, a poverty stricken shoemaker and his wife, who took Greene together with his mistress and infant son into their lice ridden hovel here on Dowgate – a stones throw from St Paul’s Catehdral- and a thoroughfare that we cover on several of our historical City of London walks.

On June 11th 1592, following a riot of the apprentices at one of the Southwark theatres. The authorities reacted by ordering the closure of the theatres. The actors left London and went on tour around the country.

Greene though lay dying on his lice-ridden bed of straw. His thoughts turned bitterly to those actors who were off in the provinces performing his plays and profiting from his creations.

As the resentment boiled within him he focussed it on one man in particular. The young upstart who, without the benefit of a university education, had dared to trounce him at the box office.

Greene penned a letter, which was intended for Christopher Marlow, Thomas Nash and George Peel, fellow playwrights. In that letter he made a blistering attack on William Shakespeare. It read:-

Base minded men all three of you, if by my misery you be not warned. For unto non of you sought those burrs to cleave those puppets that spake from our mouths. Those antics garnished in our colours. Yes. Trust them not, for there is an upstart crow beautified with our feathers,that with his tiger’s heart wrapped in a player’s hide, supposes that he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you. And being an absolute Johannes Factotum is in his conceipt the only Shakescene in the country.

This is just one of the many anecdotes about the immortal Bard that you will hear on our Shakespeare in London walks.

Happy Birthday William Shakespeare

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

On April 23rd we celebrate the birthday of William Shakespeare. Well, to be honest it probably isn’t his actual date of birth as this shakespeare-portrait2wasn’t considered important in the Elizabethan age. In an era of high infant mortality it was important to get your child Christened as soon as possible and it was the date of the Christening that was recorded and William Shakespeare was Christened in Holy Trinity Church Stratford Upon Avon on April 26th 1564.

But April 23rd is also St George’s day and the the temptation to have England’s greatest dramatist born   on the same day as her national saint has long proved irresistible and,in consequence, William Shakespeare’s birthday is celebrated on 23rd April. It was also, coincidentally, the day of his death in 1616.

In commemoration of this historic day today’s blog will look at several of the locations featured on our Shakespeare London walks.

Shakespeare arrived in London at some stage between 1587 and 1592, the honest truth being that we don’t know exactly when he arrived in the capital.

We also don’t know for certain by which route Shakespeare arrived in London, but it is likely that the final stage of his journey brought him along Holborn.

In those days it was lined with inns and taverns all of which have long since been demolished. The street’s character has changed beyond recognition and today soulless office blocks now sit upon sites once occupied by such places as The George and Blue Boar, The Castle, The Sun, The Bear and the Black Bull.

And yet one structure has survived to link our age with that of Shakespeare’s, for on the right as you approach the City of London along Holborn, still gazing down onto passers by below, just as it no doubt gazed down upon the travel weary young Shakespeare as he trudged past it en route for the City of London, is Staple Inn.

St John’s Gate.

Another location that is featured on our Shakespeare’s London walks is St. John’s Gate, which is situated in Clerkenwell. It dates from the 15th century and is all that remains of the Priory of St John’s.

The Priory of St John at Clerkenwell was by all accounts a glorious and awe inspiring place. But by Shakespeare’s day much of it had gone in the wake of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Protector Somerset had had blown up much of it and had had the stone carted away to build his grand mansion on the Strand.

Yet the gatehouse here had survived and still stands today, one of the few buildings left in London which Shakespeare would have known well. By his day the gate had become the Office of the Revels.

For virtually all the time that Shakespeare was writing, the Master of The Revels was Edmund Tilney and it was his job to license plays for public performance.

Having written a new play, Shakespeare would hand it over to his company who would then present it to the office of the Revels together with the required fee to obtain a licence. Should the play contain material that was considered offensive to the State or the Church, the Master of the Revels would suggest changes before a licence would be granted.

So in the old gate house worked the official who made the decision as to whether or not audiences could see the latest Shakespeare play. It makes’s the gate a real link back to the past and really does draw gasps of amazement from our groups when they encounter it on our Shakespeare’s London walk.

These are just two locations connected with William Shakespeare that you will be able to see on our London walks. There is, of course, much more in London that is associated with the Bard and, if this little glimpse of his world and the buildings that have survived in London since his day has whetted your appetite, why not join us on one of several London walks that explore the locations associated with William Shakespeare.