Sixteen years after opening Shakespeare’s Globe alongside Her Majesty The Queen, His Royal Highness The Duke Of Edinburgh returned to the theatre to officially open the venue’s new inside auditorium, the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.
Prince Philip popped down to the iconic Bankside venue yesterday to unveil an oak plaque and light the last of 100 beeswax candles that will illuminate the almost-complete Jacobean playhouse which hosts its first production early next year.
Talking at the event, at which he met many of the team behind the design of the new roofed theatre that will allow Shakespeare’s Globe to stage productions year round, the Duke of Edinburgh spoke of how he thought the building’s founder, after whom the new space is named, would feel: “Sam would have been pleased – I think it’s well worth remembering how much he put into this whole idea and drove it forward. He was prevented from achieving anything for something like 10 years, but he stuck at it and would be immensely proud of this theatre. Sam would have told you that he was mortally embarrassed that the theatre is named after him, but secretly I think he would have been quite pleased!”
Wanamaker’s Olivier Award-winning actress daughter Zoe was also on hand for this momentous occasion, commenting: “I am so proud to see the realisation of my father’s original vision. Not only is it unique, it is the only Jacobean theatre in London. We can at last take The Globe indoors and I look forward with excitement to the opening season in 2014.”
Though the Duke of Edinburgh has launched the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, there are still finishing touches to be made and £200,000 of the £7.5 million fund left to raise.
The first production in the new theatre will take place on 9 January 2014, when Gemma Arterton leads the cast of Webster’s The Duchess Of Malfi. The famous tragedy will be followed by The Knight Of The Burning Pestle, L’Ormindo and The Malcontent.