Going to the theatre in London 

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Going to the theatre in London

London is very rich in theatres; there are over forty in the West End alone—more than enough to ensure that there will always be at least two or three shows running to suit every kind of taste, whether serious or frivolous.

Some of them are specialist theatres. The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, where the great opera singers of the world can be heard, is the home; of opera and The Royal Ballet. The London Coliseum now houses the English National Opera Company, which encourages English singers in particular and performs most operas in English at popular prices.

Some theatres concentrate on the classics and serious drama, some on light comedy and revue, some on musicals. Most theatres have a personality of their own, from the old, such as the Theatre Royal (the 'Haymarket') in the Haymarket, to the most modern such as the recently opened Barbican centre in the City. The National Theatre has three separate theatres in its new building by Waterloo Bridge. At the new Barbican centre the Royal Shakespeare Company have their London home — their other theatre is at Stratford-on-Avon.

Most of the older London theatres are concentrated in a very small area, within a stone's throw of the Piccadilly and Leicester Square tube stations. As the evening performances normally begin either at seven-thirty or eight p.m. there is a kind of minor rush-hour between seven-fifteen and eight o'clock in this district. People stream out of the nearby tube stations, the pavements are crowded, and taxis and private cars manoeuvre into position as they drop theatre-goers outside the entrance to each theatre. There is another minor rush-hour when the performance finishes. The theatre in London is very popular and it is not always easy to get in to see a successful play.

Before World War II theatre performances began later and a visit to the theatre was a more formal occasion. Nowadays very few people "dress' for the theatre (that is, wear formal evening dress) except for first nights, or an important 'gala' performance. The times of performance were put forward during the war and have not been put back. The existing times make the question of eating a rather tricky problem: one has to have either early dinner or late supper. Many restaurants in 'theatreland' ease the situation by catering specially for early or late diners.

Television and the difficulty of financing plays have helped to close many theatres. But it seems that the worst of the situation is now over and that the theatre, after a period of decline, is about to pick up again. Although some quite large provincial towns do not have a professional theatre, there are others, such as Notting­ham, Hull, Coventry or Newcastle, which have excellent repertory companies and where a series of plays are performed during one season by a resident group of actors. Some towns such as Chichester or Edinburgh have theatres which give summer seasons. Even in small towns a number of theatres have been built in the last few years to cater for the local population.


Ex. I. Find in the text the English equivalents:

на любой вкус (подходить любому); вмещать; поддерживать английских певцов; концентрироваться на классике и серьезной драме; три отдельных театра; расположены на очень маленькой территории; совсем

рядом; час пик; людской поток; удачная пьеса; одеваться для театра; облегчать ситуацию; период упадка; профессиональный театр; отличные труппы с профессиональным репертуаром; обслуживать местное население



Ex. III. Put the sentences in the correct order:

1. The theatre, after a period of decline, is about to pick up again.

2. London is very rich in theatres; there are over 40 in the West End.

3. Some of them are specialist theatres.

4. Some towns have theatres which give summer seasons.

5. Most theatres have a personality of their own from the old to the most modern.

6. There’s a kind of minor rush-hour between 7.15 and 8 p.m. in the district.

7. The theatre in London is very popular and it is not always easy to get in to see a successful play.

8. Before World War II theatre performances were a more formal occasion.



Ex. II. Answer the questions:

1. Where are the theatres in London mostly situated?

2. How do you understand ‘specialist theatres’?

3. What kinds of theatres are there in London?

4. What can theatres in the West End offer the audience?

5. What do some theatres concentrate on?

6. Why are there two minor rush-hours?

7. What do most theatres have?

8. Where do the Royal Shakespeare Company have their London home?

9. Where are most of the older London theatres concentrated?

10. When do the evening performances start?

11. How do people get to the theatres?

12. Do people dress for the theatre nowadays?

13. What can be said about theatres in other towns?


Ex. III. Translate into English:


С открытием в 1984 году одного из самых крупных центров в Европе Барбикана культурная жизнь британской столицы стала богаче и разнообразней. Лондонское Сити финансировало строительство удивительного комплекса 25 лет. Барбикан включает 2 театральных зала Королевской Шекспировской труппы и концертный зал на 2000 мест, отданный Лондонскому симфоническому оркестру. Кроме того, в Барбикане есть картинная галерея, площадка для выставок скульптуры, Школа музыки и драмы, публичная библиотека, 3 кинотеатра, 5 конференц-залов, 2 зала для торговых выставок, 2 ресторана и множество баров. Из фойе, которое простирается на пять этажей вниз, можно легко попасть в театральные и концертные залы, а также на открытую террасу с видом на искусственное озеро. В главном зале театра ярусы тянутся к потолку и окружают сцену, но ни одно из мест не удалено от сцены более чем на 19 метров. Под главным зрительным залом расположен театр "Пит", предназначенный для студийных постановок. Еще ниже - самый большой из трех кинотеатров (280 мест). Основа деятельности Барбикана - согласованность всех культурных программ, каждый вид искусства освещает главную тему по-своему. Барбикан, безусловно, пользуется успехом благодаря впечатляющему диапазону мероприятий.


Ex. IV. Discussion:

1. Which of the London theatres would you go to if you had a chance? Explain your choice.

2. Compare the theatreland in Belarus (Minsk, Grodno, Vitebsk) with that of London. Share your opinions with those of your groupmates.

Shakespeare's Globe


The Globe Theatre was an octagonal structure with an unroofed yard in the centre where the ‘groundlings’ stood.

Groundlingswere those people of the audience who paid a mere penny to attend. The groundlings were closer to the stage than were people of the gallery audience, but they had a less satisfactory view.

Three tiers of seats, the galleries, rose around the perimeter of the yard and were protected by a thatched roof. Theatre-goers in the galleries looked down on a wooden stage, raised a few feet off the ground.

At the back of the main stage were two doors that led to a dressing room and were used for most of the actor’s entrances and exits. Built into the main stage were one or more trapdoors leading to an area below the stage. Actors playing ghosts or witches would appear and disappear through the trapdoors. Above the stage was a small building known as ‘the heavens’ where the stage crew could produce thunder and other sound effects.

Although the Globe was not a large theatre, it could accommodate more than two thousand spectators, about eight hundred of whom stood in the yard. Performances were given in the afternoon, the stage being lit by daylight. Costumes were colourful and often expensive, hut the sets were simple, and scenery was hardly used at all. The companies strove for special effects, however such as birds and goddesses descending from the roof by means of ropes and pulleys.

Women’s roles in the plays were acted by men or, more commonly by boys. Partly because of the absence of scenery to change and the absence of a curtain across the main stage, the plays proceeded at a brisk pace. Actors spoke their lines more rapidly than they do today. A good voice and excellent diction were imperative, and Elizabethan audiences spoke of ‘hearing’ plays rather than ‘seeing’ them. The plays had to have dramatic power to hold a popular and sometimes unruly audience. Shakespeare’s plays certainly had that power as they still do today.

The original Globe was built in 1599 on the south bank of the Thames, and rebuilt 14 years later following a fire in 1613 and remained in use until1644 when it was demolished to make space for new houses. Shakespeare died in 1616, but the theatre continued to perform his work until the Puritans closed it in 1642.


This meticulous reproduction of Shakespeare's original Globe Theatre - constructed using Elizabethan building techniques - offers authentic performances and guided tours.

In 1986 permission was given to the American actor and director, Sam Wanamaker, to build an exact copy of Shakespeare’s Globe theatre on The late Sam Wanamaker did not live to see the fulfilment of his 40-year dream of re-creating the 'Wooden O-shaped' thatched theatre, where many of the greatest plays in the English language were first performed. However, shortly before the legendary American director died in 1993, he saw the shell of the new Globe erected.

Standing a short distance from the site of the original, the new theatre specializes in plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries. The enormous cost of the new Globe - £30m at the last count - was the result of painstaking efforts to re-create the original, right down to the lime and goats hair used for plaster. The story of the construction is told in a special exhibition.

The design of the theatre, three sheltered tiers in a circle around the open-air stage, means no-one is more than half the length of a tennis court from the stage. Seats in the three galleries, which accommodate 1,000 people, cost £5-20. An extra 500 'groundlings' (who stand in the yard around the stage) pay a flat rate of £5.

The picturesque riverside location is relatively quiet - only the occasional passing helicopter drowns out the actors' lines. The wooden benches can get uncomfortable during a three-hour Shakespeare play, but cushions are available. The first public performance at the new Globe in 1996 had to be halted after an actor, swinging down to the stage by a rope, broke his leg.

Attached to the Globe theatre is a smaller, indoor theatre, built according to a design by Inigo Jones.

Ex.I. Answer the questions:

1. What does the reproduction of Shakespeare’s original Globe Theatre offer?

2. Where were many of the great plays first performed?

3. When was the original Globe built and then rebuilt?

4. What does the new theatre specialize in?

5. What was the cost of the New Globe?

6. What is told in a special exhibition?

7. What is the distance from the stage for the spectators?

8. How many seats do the three galleries accommodate?

9. What is the location like?

10. What are the seats made of?

11. What happened during the first public performance at the new Globe in 1996?


Ex. II. Complete the sentences:

1. The meticulous reproduction of Shakespeare’s original Globe Theatre offers…

2. Many of the greatest plays in the English language were first performed…

3. The original Globe was built in …

4. After Shakespeare’s death the theatre continued …

5. The result of the effort to recreate the original Globe theatre was …

6. The story of the construction is told …

7. The theatre accommodates …

8. The picturesque riverside location is …

9. The wooden benches can get …

10. The first public performance at the new Globe was in …


Ex. III. Speak on the following:

1. Describe the interior of the Globe.

2. Compare a modern theatre and the original Globe.

3. Compare the staff now and then.


Theatre in London

Most British cities have a theatre, but London has the greatest number. There are over 50 theatres in London's West End, the area in London with most theatres, and about 35 smaller fringe theatres.

In recent years, musicals have been very successful. About 5 million people, many of them tourists, go to see a musical every year in London.

Going to the theatre in Britain is not only popular, but also expensive. Not many young people can afford to go. It is possible to get cheaper tickets by going to afternoon performances called matinees or by buying stand-bys, half-price tick­ets which are sold half an hour before a performance starts.

Britain has a long tradition of drama. British theatre began in the thirteenth century, before the time of Shakespeare, with a series of short stories from the Bible called The Mystery Plays. Even today, every four years in York and Chester, ordinary people still perform these plays.

Acting, both by amateurs and professionals, is still very much alive in Brit­ain. British professional actors are usually highly respected and well-trained.

The most famous British theatres are the National Theatre and the Barbican. The Royal Shakespeare Company performs at the Barbican in London and in Stratford-on-Avon, where Shakespeare was born. These theatres receive money from the government so that they can perform several different plays a year. In spite ofthis money from the government, many theatres, including the National Theatre and the Barbican, find it difficult to survive.

There are many smaller theatre groups in Britain. Some of them receive money from the government to perform plays which are contemporary and ex­perimental.

From "In Britain" by M. Vaughan-Rees



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