16 June 2015

7 Tips to see and enjoy Shakespeare

Photo by John Tramper. Courtesy of Globe Theatre.

Ok, ok. I know Shakespeare isn’t for everyone. I didn’t like it either thanks to English class at school. But I fell in love with it thanks to a friend of mine taking me to Twelfth Night performed by Sydney's Bell Shakespeare Company. Twelfth Night became my favourite play because of that production. Since moving to London however, I've been incredibly lucky to see many of Shakespeare's plays; Much Ado About Nothing by the RSC, Taming the Shrew at Kensington Palace Gardens, Twelfth Night at Richmond Theatre, A Midsummer Night's Dream & A Comedy of Errors at the Globe Theatre. And on Saturday I went to see As You Like It, also at the Globe Theatre.

So why? Why do I bother going to these plays? Because they are quite funny. Yes FUNNY. If you don’t know Shakespeare, each one of those plays I mentioned are one of Shakespeare's comedies. Aside from Hamlet in high school, I haven’t seen any of his tragedies or histories. So hear me out, I'm here to help you enjoy a night out watching Shakespeare. If it doesn’t work, you are welcome to come back and yell at me, I can take it ;) So for Shakespeare newbies, here is how to do Shakespeare.

1) First thing's first. Choose a Comedy. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT be silly and pick a tragedy or history as your first Shakespearian play. Go for something fun, light and full of laughs. Some of Shakespeare's more popular comedies are those I've already mentioned.

2) Make sure its performed by a company known for good Shakespeare. This will probably cost a bit more but its worth it. Amateur productions may be interesting , have an interesting take, and done well enough but a high-end company will really make a difference to such a play. In the UK/London, you cant go wrong with the Globe Theatre or the RSC.

3) Get a good seat. I know good seats are expensive but here's the thing. A lot of what makes a play is the expressions on the actors faces…if you are too far to see it, you miss the emotion and impact of the words. It leaves a whole lot of talk and little meaning.

4) Get an idea of what the play is about. You don’t have to read the play – in fact, that’ll probably just bore you – just hop onto the interwebs to find and read the synopsis. This will help because, if you know basically what's happening, the language won't lose you.

5) Expect that you wont get all of it. And that’s ok. Even today, a lot of people who study his plays still arent sure what is meant by some of the things he wrote. But Shakespeare wrote for all audiences, some stuff is subtle, some slapstick. So if you get a few laughs out of it you have just rocked your first Shakespeare play, you awesome thing you.

6) This is a Globe Theatre specific tip. Those £5 standing only tickets are a really good deal, you're as close as you can get to the stage and, often have actors walk right past you. Don’t buy them for your first play. Just no. After about maybe 15 minutes or half an hour the novelty of being close to the action will wear off and all you'll think about is sitting or getting out of there. And lets not even mention how wet and miserable you'll be if it rains. If you get a seat, fork out an extra £1 for a cushion – trust me, your bottom will thank you.

Alternative 6) Buy 2 £5 tickets to the same play on different nights. Watch the first half one night and the second half another night. Bring a rain poncho - I doubt they'll let you obstruct other peoples views if it starts to drizzle.

7) Its ok if you do all of the above and still don't like Shakespeare! I'll still love you, and you'll still be awesome ;)

Do you have any of your own tips or experiences to share?


  1. very witty and true ! Thanks for your tips on The Globe.

  2. I'm a big fan of Shakespeare, but I agree that comedies are definitely the way in. I usually have great intentions of reading the play before I go and don't get round to it, so my tip would be to read a synopsis online!

    Suze | LuxuryColumnist

    1. Hi Suze, so nice to have a Shakespeare fan commenting! I always have the same intention too, lol.

  3. Great tips!!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks :)
    I'm visiting London -for 4th time- in September and Globe theatre -this time- is in my list...
    During the days I'll be there two Shakespeare's plays are on "Measure for measure" and "Richard II"
    I have already decided to see the first....a comedy....as you suggested!
    About the seats....I'm between lower and middle gallery.....what do you think?

    1. My pleasure!

      Both lower and middle are good. Bays G, H & J are best, but bays D, E, L & N will be fine too. If you are in the middle gallery, try to sit in the front rows. If in the lower, any row is good but the last one will let you lean back against the wall, which is nice. If you are getting a 'restricted view' seat (I dont recommend it, but it is cheaper), then get one further towards the back.

      I hope you have a fantastic time!!

  4. What a fab idea about seeing a show in two halves at the globe. I love it there but 3+ hours standing is a killer on my old lady knees! x

  5. This is really, really good advice. From someone who isn't a big fan of live theater, I can totally appreciate having a 'guide' before booking something like this. I really believe this kind of thing can make all the difference for someone like me!