A new theatre lit entirely by candles officially opens in London on Wednesday (January 15), transporting audiences back 400 years to the kind of performances seen on winter nights in Shakespeare's time.
Fashioned from oak, the building sits alongside the established open-air Globe theatre on the south bank of the Thames - but it offers a very different experience by replicating an indoor playhouse of the early 17th century.
While the Globe's thatched amphitheatre is breezy and holds more than 1,500 people, the new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse - named after the American actor and director who came up with the idea for both venues - is intimate, with just 340 seats.
The reconstruction architect who helped design the Playhouse, Jon Greenfield, believes experiencing it is like having the actors enter your living room.
"You don't feel as though you're necessarily going to see a spectacle. You feel as though you're part of it. This is like a big room really. It's like your living room almost. It's as if the actors have come to you and that you're really very much part of what they're doing because it's just so intimate and so close," he said.
The actors perform in close proximity to lit candles, which looks dangerous although they are dressed in fireproof clothes and not allowed to wear hairspray.
"But I had an issue in the technical rehearsal where I...because my dress is so big, I don't feel it. So I swished around to the front of the stage and my God, because there was candles all at the front, so that was my near-death experience in this new Shakespeare's Globe Theatre," said Denise Gough, who plays the part of Julia in "The Duchess of Malfi".
In many ways the small indoor space is an "anti-Globe," according to artistic director Dominic Dromgoole, whose production of John Webster's dark tragedy "The Duchess of Malfi" opened there on Jan. 9.
"It's unrecognisable from any other theatre in the world. It's the only replica this authentic of a theatre of it's own day. It's built with incredible care and detail to be as fully achieved as a Jacobean Theatre as possible. It's all made from beautiful oak as you can see. It's all carved by hand, painted by hand. The paints have all been properly researched. There isn't a bit of it that isn't in some way properly researched and we couldn't find a precedent for in the theatre of its own day," said Dromgoole.
Modelled on drawings that fell out of an old book in the library at Worcester College, Oxford, in the 1960s, the new playhouse offers a wintertime option for Dromgoole and his team.
The second venue builds on the outdoor success of the Globe, which has been putting on shows since 1997 and had its first transfer to Broadway in November. Given the British weather, the Globe can only operate from April to October,
The Chief Executive at Shakespeare's Globe, Neil Constable, is hopeful the new theatre will be a financial boon.
"Of course having an indoor theatre means around 100,000 theatregoers are going to be coming to the Globe. The Globe will be performing 52 weeks of the year and hopefully we'll see a boost in sales in tickets but also in our restaurant, retail and tours."
Presented by Adam Justice