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Editor's Blog: Let's hear it for Shakespeare's Globe

The South Bank venue continues to balance artistic and commercial success

The Globe by night
© Pete Le May

This week I'm raising a glass (of sack, natch) to Shakespeare's Globe, which has just announced bumper takings for the 12 months to October 2014, a period that saw it account for an astonishing ten percent of all London play-going. This has been achieved without a pound of public subsidy, and without raising the cost of its lowest price ticket (£5) since it reopened in 1997.

Those who pay more still sit on hard wooden benches and suffer (albeit to a lesser extent) the vagaries of London weather, not to mention the regular droning of planes overhead. But still they pack in - last summer's season achieved an average capacity of 91 percent for its main Shakespeare productions, while the long-awaited opening of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse has proved a resounding creative and commercial success.

And on top of this, the Globe can now claim to be the world's most widely-seen Shakespeare company, thanks largely to its impressive two-year tour of Hamlet that is currently visiting every country in the world (today it's in Nigeria). As chief executive Neil Constable said in the annual review, the venue has become an invaluable source for "promoting and maintaining awareness for one of the UK's best known brands" - Shakespeare. For this we all owe it a debt.

Mark Rylance in Farinelli and the King at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
© Marc Brenner

It's hard to deduce particular lessons from the Globe's achievement, seeing as it's such a unique building and institution. But it has certainly blazed a trail in terms of its ability to grow its in-house, touring, educational and digital offerings in tandem; not many venues can boast both a medieval layout and state-of-the-art online player.

Credit must of course go to the Globe's late mastermind Sam Wanamaker and founding artistic director Mark Rylance - who fittingly recently performed in the playhouse bearing Wanamaker's name - for laying the foundations of this success. But they'd no doubt be the first to herald the tenure of Rylance's successor Dominic Dromgoole for building so comprehensively on them.

Dromgoole, who has been in post since 2005, steps down next year. Let's hope he receives similar garlands and acclamations to those that have greeted this year's outgoing London ADs Nicholas Hytner and Kevin Spacey; he certainly merits them.

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