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Shakespeare’s Globe plans indoor Jacobean theatre

Theatre news

SHAKESPEARE’S Globe has confirmed plans to move forward with the completion of an indoor Jacobean theatre, the shell of which already exists on the Globe site. This will be the most complete recreation of an English renaissance indoor theatre yet attempted.

The fundraising campaign will launch next month, with a view to begin major construction work in November 2012, and launch the theatre, with a first winter season, in November 2013.

The indoor theatre will seat around 320 people, with two tiers of galleried seating and an authentic pit seating area, which will provide a uniquely intimate and intense theatre experience.

Some of Shakespeare’s greatest plays – The Tempest, Cymbeline and The Winter’s Tale – were written for an entirely different space to the outdoor Elizabethan playhouses.

By restoring the indoor Jacobean theatre to its intended purpose, the Globe will be able to further its understanding of theatre practices at that time and explore the unique relationship between actor and audience in England’s earliest indoor theatres.

As Artistic Director Dominic Dromgoole explains: “The faithful recreation of the Globe fourteen years ago revolutionised people’s ideas of what a theatre can, could and should be. The recreation of an indoor Jacobean theatre, the closest simulacrum of Shakespeare’s own Blackfriars that we can achieve, will have the same effect, and will prove a revelation of equal magnitude”.

Sam Wanamaker’s vision for the Globe extended beyond the “wooden-O” – one of the most iconic and atmospheric performance spaces in London. In addition to a purpose-built education centre, due for completion this spring, he also intended there to be a second indoor theatre space – the skin of which was incorporated into the blueprint of the Globe complex.

When Shakespeare’s Globe finally opened in 1997 after more than 27 years’ planning and four years’ construction, the indoor Jacobean theatre was left as a shell, to be divided and partitioned into rooms for education workshops and rehearsals. Now, 14 years after the theatre opened, the Globe is about to embark on the restoration of this indoor theatre to its intended purpose, with a stunning new interior.

Designs for the indoor theatre are based around a set of plans discovered in the 1960s in the collection at Worcester College Library in Oxford. The designs show a small seventeenth-century indoor theatre, similar in shape and design to the Blackfriars theatre, a U-shaped galleried auditorium embracing a platform stage.

These plans, originally thought to be drawn by celebrated Renaissance architect Inigo Jones, though now thought to be by his protégé John Webb, are the earliest plans for an English theatre in existence, and remain the best indication of the nature of an indoor Jacobean Theatre.

Since its opening in 1997, Shakespeare’s Globe has become a success story beyond all expectations. As well as providing an endless series of insights into Shakespeare’s plays and performance practices, it has proved hugely popular, playing to sell-out audiences throughout the summer and running an internationally renowned education programme.

The indoor theatre will provide a second stage, allowing theatre productions to play throughout the winter, widening the Globe’s repertoire and further completing the understanding of the nature of Jacobean theatre. It will also prove an invaluable arena for Globe Education programmes and further research into Shakespeare’s theatres.

Zoe Wanamaker CBE, Honorary President of Shakespeare’s Globe and daughter of Sam Wanamaker, commented: “The indoor Jacobean theatre is a vitally important contribution to the Globe project. The whole idea of the theatre world in which Shakespeare and his contemporaries worked is incomplete without it”.

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