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Published April 28th 2013
Sam Wanamaker's Indoor Playhouse Beside Shakespeare's Globe
I wonder how many visitors to Shakespeare's Globe on Bankside realise what a huge debt is owed to the late Sam Wanamaker. He was the man with a visionary dream to recreate Shakespeare's outdoor playhouse close to the location of the original. When Sam first visited London in 1949 he was amazed to find nothing but an old plaque commemorating the site of the sixteenth-century building. Determined to put matters to rights, he launched the Shakespeare Globe Trust and set about raising funds (including donating much of his own earnings) to construct a recreation of the Globe theatre. Sadly he died four years before the opening of his project, but he is fondly remembered by Shakespeareans, and his work is commemorated by a blue plaque on the river-side wall of the building as well as by the annual Sam Wanamaker Fellowship Lecture and the Sam Wanamaker Award.
Outside Shakespeare's Globe by Night, Showing the Sam Wanamaker Blue Plaque
The latest posthumous honour that has been bestowed upon Sam is the naming of the newly reconstructed Jacobean theatre. You may not be aware that Shakespeare's acting company (originally the Lord Chamberlain's Men and renamed the King's Men after 1603) only performed at the original Globe during the summer months. Between 1609 and 1642 (the year when the Puritans closed the playhouses) the Blackfriars Theatre became the company's winter home. It was a much smaller building, housing no more than 500 playgoers, about three times as many as the outdoor theatre, and attracting a different class of patron. Whereas performances at the Globe took place in natural light and during daylight hours, the Blackfriars was lit by candles; it was the necessity of trimming these candles that gave rise to intervals during productions.
The inaugural season for the Sam Wanamaker Indoor Playhouse doesn't begin until 9 January 2014, but booking opens over the next two weeks, firstly to Friends of Shakespeare's Globe, and then to the public. None of the plays to be performed will be written by Shakespeare, but by his contemporaries. The first three productions to be staged will be Webster's The Duchess of Malfi, Beaumont's The Knight of the Burning Pestle and Marston's The Malcontent. The candlelit interior of the theatre will also be home to classical and operatic performances, several of them from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
The Sam Wanamaker Indoor Playhouse will be an exciting opportunity for us to experience Jacobean theatre as we think it may have been, and for the acting company to extend its repertoire and perform throughout the year. Below are two computer generated images of the indoor venue.
Computer Generated Image of the Inside of the Sam Wanamaker Indoor Playhouse (Image Courtesy of shakespearesglobe.com)
Computer Generated Image of the Inside of the Sam Wanamaker Indoor Playhouse (Image courtesy of shakespearesglobe.com)