“Like a jewel box shimmering in amber candlelight” – Sam Wanamaker Playhouse


Tuesday evening was my last in London and I returned home on Wednesday morning.

The title quote is from a review in The Guardian.

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to buy the last ticket for the evening performance of The Duchess of Malfi at the brand new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at The Globe by the riverside in Southwark. I’ve visited its sister theatre The Globe proper several times and loved each performance. In rain and in sunshine and with a bench seat and cushion I have looked down on the (in my view) unlucky groundlings in the pit. These theatres are not built for comfort.

I’ll warn you now about the seating. Unlike in the Globe itself no cushions are required as all the benches (to call them seats would be an exaggeration) are padded. By lucky chance I was on the back row of four in the pit and I had a back wall (of sorts) to lean against (kind of). Looking round, and thinking of possible future visits, I could see none better to go for. As it happened, in the end, the comfort of the seats was unimportant.

This play and its performance in the intimate (seating for just 340), candle-lit auditorium was one of my theatre-visiting highlights of all time. And I can think of quite a few good ‘uns.


The candles themselves played a part in the performance; even just the lighting of them and the blowing out of them. The candelabras rise and fall from the ceiling, single candles are carried by actors and others flicker in their sconces. All contribute the atmosphere and action as the performance unfolds. I’ve been unable to add the Youtube video about the candles but scroll down through this link to watch.

G Arterton

Gemma Arterton – The Duchess – with her candle


Candles in a Sconce

“The Duchess of Malfi” was written by John Webster (1580-1634) and first performed around 1613-1614.

The widowed Duchess of Malfi longs to marry her lover, the steward Antonio. But her rancorous brothers, Ferdinand and the Cardinal, are implacably opposed to the match. When their spy, Bosola, discovers that the Duchess has secretly married and carries Antonio’s child, they exact a terrible and horrific revenge.

First performed by the King’s Men – Shakespeare’s own company – ‘privately at the Blackfriars and publicly at the Globe’, The Duchess of Malfi is a thrilling combination of brilliant coups de théâtre, horrific set-pieces and vivid characters – notably the tragic Duchess and the subtly villainous Bosola – all lit by Webster’s obsessional imagination.” [Source]

I’m looking forward to more visits to The Globe and The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse in future!