Shakespeare’s Globe

London’s new theater offers tragedy by candlelight

 

Associated Press

Shakespeare’s Globe in London is adding a couple of innovations in its quest to give audiences a sense of theater as it was 400 years ago: a roof and candles. Hundreds and hundreds of candles.

They flicker in sconces and chandeliers inside the Globe’s brand-new indoor venue, which stands alongside its Elizabethan-style open-air playhouse beside the River Thames.

The oak-framed, wood-paneled theater will allow the Globe to stage plays year-round for the first time — starting with a production of John Webster’s revenge tragedy The Duchess of Malfi featuring screen star Gemma Arterton in the title role.

The playhouse, which seats 340 people in tiered galleries, was built from original 17th-century plans using centuries-old techniques, and its shows will be lit entirely by candles — an exercise in authenticity that came at a price.

“They’re not cheap,” says chief executive Neil Constable, who oversees the Globe purse strings. “We’ve had to create a new budget line.”

The beeswax candles require frequent trimming by a team of staff — advised, said artistic director Dominic Dromgoole, by “one of the world’s leading candle experts.”

There was also the challenge of getting local government and fire authorities to agree to a wooden structure lit by open flames.

Health and safety officials were “incredibly cooperative and imaginative,” said Dromgoole. He’s emphatic that all the effort was worth it. Candlelight welcomes audiences with “a blaze of excitement and color,” he said, to a venue that smells faintly of wood, wicks and wax.

“The idea was always — if Shakespeare walked in here, would he feel at home?” Dromgoole said.

“A lot of the great plays of the period that this space was built for were written for these conditions,” he said. “Something like Duchess of Malfi,” it’s rich with references to light.”

Building an indoor playhouse fit for Shakespeare has been a lengthy process.

The new venue is named the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, after the late American actor-director who spent decades realizing his dream of rebuilding Shakespeare’s London playhouse near its original site.

Wanamaker, who died in 1993, dreamed of an indoor theater beside the outdoor Globe, and the brick shell of the venue was built as part of the reconstruction. But financial constraints meant it wasn’t completed at the same time as the Globe, which opened in 1997.

In the last few years, the company has raised most of the $12.3 million cost of the new venue from individuals and charitable trusts. Its indoor productions should bring in 100,000 more ticket-buyers a year.

Globe staff call the playhouse an “archetype” rather than a reconstruction — it’s modeled on the designs of several 17th century theaters, including the nearby Blackfriars, where Shakespeare’s company performed.

Architect John Greenfield said the materials were scrupulously researched, including green oak for the galleries. Chisel and saw marks from time-honored craft techniques are visible on the wood.

There are a few concessions to modernity. Understated electric lights help spectators find their seats. And, Greenfield said, “we’ve planned this building to have as many good fire escapes as possible.”

No one knows exactly how the venue will transform the plays staged in it. In the 90s, naysayers predicted the Globe would be a tourist trap offering “olde worlde” Shakespeare, but its productions have proved both popular and innovative. The Globe’s all-male productions of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and Richard III, starring Mark Rylance, are currently running on Broadway.

If the atmosphere at the Globe is often open, inclusive and raucous, the new venue seems ideal for reflective, spooky and menacing moments — Dromgoole has even called it the “anti-Globe.”

Its repertoire will include Shakespeare’s late plays, as well as the bloody, brooding works of Jacobean playwrights who came after him.

Dromgoole said that even before the opening night of The Duchess of Malfi earlier this month, cast and crew had learned “a huge amount” about the plays from the new-old building.

“We’re learning about their capacity for intimacy. We’re learning about their extraordinary psychological depth,” he said.

“The stillness of the face under candlelight … immediately makes it a very intimate, very psychologically deep and detailed exercise in a way you can’t quite achieve in the broadness and the breadth and the light of the Globe.”

Read more Travel stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
The village of Penmarch, whose name reflects Brittany’s Celtic past; the word Penmarch means head of a horse in the local Breton, a Celtic language brought to this region in the Middle Ages by Britons migrating to the continent.

    France

    Life at the ‘end of the earth’ in western Brittany

    Do you know where the world ends?

  •  
 In books and film, San Francisco was once indelibly linked with noir -- and there are still plenty of locals keeping alive an era when darkness held a certain glamour.

    California

    Hammett’s San Francisco: Where noir still lives

    San Francisco is well known for its transformations, the most recent one fueled by tech money that has seemingly scrubbed much of the city clean. Evidence of it tends to be easy to mock: the $4 artisanal toast, the shuttle buses carrying workers from the city interior to Silicon Valley, the preponderance of reclaimed wood. But for almost a century, the city has been indelibly linked with an enigmatic genre that might be considered an antidote to all of that: noir.

  • The travel troubleshooter

    Resort won’t accept my Travelzoo voucher

    Q: I recently bought a Travelzoo voucher for pet-friendly accommodations at Yosemite Lakes RV Resort. I made a reservation with the resort at the time I purchased the voucher.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK



  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category