Review: Ballad of the Burning Star, Battersea Arts Centre
It's a list with a stage actor/music video/Ben Whishaw theme. OK.

The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse experience (or why?)

Sam-wanamaker-playhouse-i-001One critic described the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse as like a jewellery box. It is the bijou, indoor version of The Globe, lit entirely by candles and it is certainly an atmospheric environment in which to see a play. But will I be rushing back? Probably not.

The popularity of The Globe, the outdoor version of a Jacobean Theatre, has always perplexed me. I've tried seeing productions there from the seats (hard, backless, expensive benches, too far from the stage) and from the pit (standing for hours, straining to see what is going on but cheap).

It is almost always cold and the audience distracting. I want to concentrate on the play not my backache, the chill or wondering why that woman has brought a baby along. There are many very good reasons why theatres aren't built like this any more.

So an indoor theatre, next door to The Globe, seemed like a good idea; at least it would eliminate the potential for inclement weather. The problem, as I've already hinted, is that the Sam Wanamaker is bijou. Yes it is like a jewellery box but it is also like trying to cram an adult audience into a dolls house-size theatre.

The backless benches remain, albeit with carpet-like covering as a concession to some comfort but a good half to two thirds of the seats are facing the centre of the auditorium. This means that in order to see the stage you have to turn in your seat to watch what is going on. 

Yes there is a thrill of being in such a small space with the actors merely feet away but I'm short in stature and petite of frame and I felt uncomfortably crammed and twisting around to see the stage. My knees were nearly touching the bench in front so it must been even worse for those of average or bigger build or those with limited mobility. And you can pay up to £60 for the privilege.

Like The Globe, the Sam Wanamaker feels gimmicky, something for tourists and those among my theatre acquaintances who really don't mind the discomfort. For my part there are plenty Shakespearean and Jacobean dramas being produced at theatres in which you don't feel like the experience is some sort of physical endurance. You can sit back in relative comfort and enjoy the play.

 

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