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DateLine Wednesday, 13 June 2007

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Shakespeare in the theatre

PIONEER: Sam Wanamaker who spent his fortune because of his adoration to the works of Shakespeare to build the new Globe theatre but unfortunately never lived to see its completion. Wanamaker is seen at the construction site of the Globe.

DRAMA: There were actors before any theatre sprang up and they used to perform at market places, inn-yards and in the open. These were the only places where they could attract people and earn some money.

Then, for the dawn of the theatre, there appeared an Elizabethan promoter of performing arts in the guise of James Barbage, (1530-97) who after careful deliberation and assessment of the prevailing touring troupes, decided to help and finance a permanent theatre for the actors.

On the night of 28 December, 1598 they built the first Globe Theatre which was open to the skies. This appealed to the audience who responded magnificently where the Barbage brothers were able to recover their investments. However, in 1623, the Globe burnt down mysteriously. The Globe had proved its worth.

Later in the 17th century the Bard gave the impression of writing his work without knowing why. At least, that is what the critics assumed. But one thing stood out loud and clear that the theatre would never have survived without Shakespeare. He was there to guide and develop the theatre but their enemies got the upper hand that forced the theatres to close down and given the time, the theatre was back in glory.

The Old Vic

In the centre of Waterloo Road and to the south of Thames, the Old Vic was built in 1818 at the Royal Coburg. Renamed the Royal Victoria, it had a turbulent early history.

By the Autumn of 1823, every play in the First Folio had been performed by popular actors. From 1823, a new director, Harcourt Williams engaged young George Gielgud as the leading man in the next two years.

As the theatre became established in the 1930s, great names like Charles Laughton, Flora Robson, Michael Redgrave, etc gave life to major characters. The Waterloo Road Theatre re-opened under Hunt in November 1942. In 1963 the New National Theatre company under Sir Lawrence Olivier yet without a building of its own, took over the VIC and opened with Hamlet. In 1975 the National Theatre left for its new theatre for the Old Vic.

For nearly 13 years the National Theatre remained with the Old Vic until the completion of their own theatre in 1963. It was sited at the South Bank. Despite the protracted delay each of the three theatres within the National became active. A Theatre Board was set up in 1962 to overlook the building of the main Theatre.

Lord Oliver was the Director from 1962-1973 and Sir Peter Hall took over from him until 1988. There were many who succeeded him, thereafter. It gained Royal Charter in 1988.

Midsummer Night's Dream was the first play to go. It was initiated by the Australian actor, Sydney Carrol in 1932. Carrol reshaped the stage and transplanted trees. The first season drew an audience of over 250,000 but lost over a thousand pounds. Carrol successfully sought funds from the Arts Council. A year later the company went on its first overseas tour.

Director, Michael Bogdanove and actor, Michael Pennington established the ESC in 1986. The inaugural performance of all the Henrys were toured throughout the world and the company added four more new productions. Over the next six years, the company performed 15 plays. The ESC pioneering educational and community work still continue, supported by the Arts Council.

The Globe

This is the better known among all theatres. The original Globe Theatre opened in 1599 was at Southwalk on the South Bank of the Thames where Shakespeare had major shares. It had as its first performance, As You Like It in 1613.

It mysteriously brunt down during a performance of Henry III and re-opened in 1614. Described as 'the fairest that ever there was in England' was pulled down 30 years later by the Puritants.

Hollywood actor, director, the late Sam Wanamaker who was a devotee of Shakespeare was determined to rebuild the Globe as a dedication to the Bard. He sought the original site of the old Globe.

He was surprised to find that locals knew very little about it. After much trouble to locate the place, Wanamaker came across and old plaque which he cleaned up and located the original site of he old Globe.

He got about building the present Globe with such passion and dedication, he was personally on the site to see to its finish. But tragically, he could see his dream materialising because he died before its completion. A line from King Henry III remains as a fitting tribute to this great philanthropist for his magnificent efforts. 'Our children's children will see this and bless heaven'.

The mere coincidence of names to a local journalist, Tom Patterson and the possibility of an annual Shakespeare Festival in The Canadian Stratford, a small Ontario town by the Canadian Avon. During the summer of 1953, Sir Alec Guiness acted Richard III and a few months later, Irene Worth in All's Well That Ends Well.

Inspite of several alternations, the state remains basically Moiseiwisch-Guthrie creation. During its 27 years, Stratford worked through Shakespeare Folio. Largely, they were all responsible for the popularising Shakespeare in Canada and it was all due to the dedicated efforts of Tyronne Guthrie.


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