To begin with something entertaining, this post was originally inspired by the movie Shakespeare in Love (1998). Indeed it’s old but I just came across this film last month while visiting a friend’s flat. Although I know little about Shakespeare or British history back in that time, it was great fun and made me more familiar with Shakespeare’s age.
The theatre in the film tries to imitate the theatre back in 16th century. And this week I went to see Midsummer Night’s Dream and again returned to the Globe the next day to listen to the theatre’s Chief Executive Mr Constable’s briefing about their almost completed Sam Wanamaker Playhouse for our organisation. Before I listened to the briefing, all I had in mind was–alright, the theatre looks very different from the modern one. But I didn’t do much research about the architecture design.
On the night I watched Midsummer, I was standing in the yard. The performance started with actors playing the old instruments while the audience was still socialising with each other. And during the play, the comedy had many scenes that triggered people’s laugh. In fact, to a certain point I got annoyed. Sadly I am not used to this sort of culture, in terms of the funny parts and the audience loud participation, so I got quite uncomfortable. The next day while we went to see the exhibition as a team, I got the chance to read (skim, as there wasn’t enough time for my slow reading) through the history of The Globe. Here are photos I got when we were visiting the site. Because the playhouse is still under construction, we were required to wear helmet and reflexive vests!
The most amazing part during the visit was to learn that the design team has intentionally created this playhouse to again resemble the theatre in the 16th century. Because this playhouse seats merely 350 people and is more intimate, smaller in scale compared to their main stage, the audience sitting on the lower gallery will be looking up. What’s more bizarre, the people who are sitting on the sides of this level will have to look up and turn around! The executive was joking that during the intermission, the audience will need to switch sides so their stiff neck won’t be too painful after the night! So we were asking how can the seating plan attract the audience? The executive said, well, it’s not comfortable either at The Globe. People are sitting on the hard bench or standing! But still, there are numerous audiences who wish to enjoy the performance here. Another brave deed is the lighting. Unlike The Glove, this playhouse is situated indoor and hence needs lighting system. The main lighting will be candles! The executive said they have contacted the candle supplier and were told they will be the biggest candle consumer in the UK. Speaking of candle, fire safety is for sure another major concern. They need to make sure the ventilation is good and for sure not to burn down their main asset, the open-air Globe! Besides the candle light, the natural light coming from the window at the back of the stage is crucial. All the pillars, window frames and leaning handrail and etc. were all thoroughly researched to authenticate the theatre as much as possible. Nobody knows for sure what the first Globe looked like. Coming her serves as the experience of time traveling back to the history. Finally, the executive said the play will also be an invaluable arena for Globe Education programmes and further research into Shakespeare theatres. Because in both these theatres there is light on the audience’s side even during the performance, researchers can observe the reaction of the audience. And there can be filming ON the audience as well. (A suitable place for ethnography study!)
In addition to the new theatre, an extensive redevelopment of the foyer spaces has been completed. With mirrors set as walls, the not so spacious front door cafe looks fabulous. I am sure it’s a great place for visitors to relax. They really are building a theme park, using the cultural heritage.
SW Playhouse will look like this!
As a charity, The Globe made the decision to take no states subsidy. They are happy with the freedom to design their own exhibition, the educational programmes and the productions. And strangely (in a good way), they get to hire so many volunteers who are passionate and willing to work for free. The total cost of the theatre’s development costs 7.5 millions and they have got 6.5 millions. I wonder if some of these funds are ‘invested’ by other corporations. I assume, investing in The Globe sounds exciting. But of course, as a charity, The Globe is not making profits for individuals. I am just being amazed at their fundraising strategy! (Rhys told me he had a contact in fundraising department, so should chase him to kindly pass me the contact detail maybe!) Our director kept saying the executive is such a clever man who is capable of planning things in a brave way. I am sure The Globe serves as a successful case study for theatre undertaking development.
Tickets for the playhouse is on sale now! 5 months in advance. The Globe’s reputation is incredibly well-known.