Sunday, 20 May 2012

Apology to Mr Wanamaker

I admit that I was one of the naysayers, who dismissed Sam Wanamaker's idea of re-creating the Globe Theatre.  I thought he was going to put Disneyland by the Thames.

What changed my mind?

Years ago I strolled along the river with a friend and we walked round the Globe theatre building.  I asked the enthusiastic student volunteers what play was being performed that evening and was told 'Pericles'.  I'd never heard of it, but they persuaded us to buy tickets.  The performance was magical.  The plot involved sea voyages and rigging was attached to the balconies, so that the audience felt as if they were on board ship.  For the first time, I understood Shakespeare's skill in catering to the aristocracy, ordinary educated folk and the raucous groundlings.

Last night the Marjanishvili Theatre of Georgia performed 'As You Like It' in Georgian as part of the Globe to Globe festival.  The cast surrounded the stage and acted as a Greek chorus, sound effects troupe, crowd, circus style side men to the few actors on stage.  I know few words of Georgian, but enjoyed their show immensely.  Sound effects were provided by simple means, such as rain sticks, singing wine glasses, triangles, drums and cymbals.

If you missed it, you can watch it online here.

How did  he do it?

Sam Wanamaker faced huge obstacles in realising his dream.  English Heritage blocked his efforts to get detailed information from their archaeological excavation of Shakespeare's original theatre nearby.  A group of thespians put their weight behind the re-creation of the Rose Theatre rather than Wanamaker's project.  Investors doubted the feasibility of the enterprise and money dried up.  Sam maintained a single minded focus on the idea and persuaded others to join him.  Eventually Sam died, but the team continued to pursue his vision.  When everything seemed hopeless, one member focussed on what benefits the Globe would bring and re-invigorated his colleagues.

The theatre is thriving today.  It receives no public subsidy.  There is a full educational programme to ensure that Shakespeare is brought to life in the hearts and minds of young people.

Congratulations Mr Wanamaker.  I'm sorry I ever doubted you.

Update:  New indoor theatre dedicated to Sam Wanamaker has been built in Jacobean style.


  1. When something is a success, we forget how fragile the beginnings may have been. The theatre is vibrant and not some sort of museum piece.