New Shakespeare theater aims to recreate playhouses from 400 years ago


LONDON, Jan. 18 — The Shakespeare Globe Theater on London’s South Bank has opened the doors on a new theater, and one which celebrates the building style and aesthetics of 400 years ago.
The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse holds about 340, which opened this week, and is built in the style of Jacobean theaters.
It is built to capture the architectural style, replicate the construction methods, and provide an authentic platform for the performance of plays of the Jacobean era, which began in 1603 when James I became king of England, during Shakespeare’s later years.
Plans found in the 1960s at Worcester College, Oxford, are the earliest such known for an indoor playhouse and were used to inform the building of the new theater.
“If Shakespeare walked in here now, he would recognize this theater,” said Dr Farah Karim Cooper, chair of the architectural research group at the Globe.
The new theater is named after the driving force behind the Shakespeare Globe Theater project, the American actor Sam Wanamaker, who died in 1993.
Wanamaker’s vision was for an authentic replica of the Globe to be built and used as a theater on London’s South Bank, just meters away from the site of the original Globe of Shakespeare’s day.
The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse differs greatly from the Globe. It is much smaller, it has a roof, and it has a small thrust stage, and it is candlelit.
Karim Cooper told Xinhua that the performing of plays indoors was part of the Shakespearean tradition, even though he is much more associated with the Globe, which is characterized by its circular shape and its lack of a roof.
“Shakespeare’s company, even when they had the Globe, were performing indoors in a variety of different contexts — they were performing in the Inns of Court, performing at Court and when they went on tour their favorite venues were private, aristocratic homes because their company was much better looked after in those places,” said Karim Cooper.
“They were very used to performing indoors, and they had always wanted to move indoors,” she said.
“Having an indoor venue meant they could experiment with different types of performance, they could play to a different audience, they could practice different plays on an aristocratic audience because they might then take those plays to court later in the year,” she said.
It was also financially beneficial to perform all the year round and in their own premises, said Karim Cooper.
The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse is smaller than the Globe, the current version of which holds about 1,500 people and the Globe of Shakespeare’s time held 3,000.
Colors and building techniques of the period have been used in the new theater, and particular features mark it out as Jacobean particularly its construction as a galleried theater made from oak.
“Also the decoration, they are the kinds of decoration you would find in Jacobean buildings,” said Karim Cooper.
“One of the driving forces was to build a theater Shakespeare would recognize — its look and feel,” she added.
Oliver Heywood, associate director, Allies and Morrison Architects, told Xinhua about the construction of the new playhouse.
He said, “It is a timber-framed structure, with three galleries and it is loosely based on a series of drawings found at Worcester College, which we believe are the earliest examples of an English indoor theater.”
“We have used those as the basis for the scale and the arrangement of this place — the way the galleries run around the sides of the stage, and how it is built,” he added.
Neil Constable, chief executive at Shakespeare’s Globe, told Xinhua the Sam Wanamaker Playhousee was opening with the revenge tragedy “The Duchess of Malfi”, by one of Shakespeare’s contemporaries John Webster.
The theater is lit by candlelight, 80 candles hung in candelabras that can be raised or lowered, as it would have been in Shakespeare’s time.
Constable said, “Audiences so far have marvelled and wondered at being able to hear the play for the first time in such a different way, seeing it by candlelight. There is no electrical light, no daylight, and for the first time in London people are able to see performances just under candlelight in the way that they would have been performed 400 years ago.”
Constable said it was appropriate to have the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse join Shakespeare’s Globe on London’s South Bank area.
He said, “Shakespeare lived and worked here. We call Stratford his birthplace, and Bankside his workplace. And we know that the Globe Theater was built here and opened in 1599. Sadly it was burnt down 400 years ago, otherwise we have had to build a reconstructed Globe Theater 13 years ago.”[db:内容2]