Town Mouse

Lon­don by can­dle­light

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country -

THIS week, I fulfilled a long-stand­ing am­bi­tion to visit the Sam Wana­maker Play­house be­side the Globe in South­wark. Com­pleted in 2014, the play­house is based on a 17th-cen­tury theatre de­sign by John Webb. The pro­duc­tion was of Mil­ton’s Co­mus, a masque writ­ten for per­for­mance in Lud­low Cas­tle in 1634. I was cu­ri­ous rather than en­thu­si­as­tic about it in prospect, but the lively de­liv­ery of the verse and the in­ti­macy of the au­di­to­rium won me over.

Per­haps the most mem­o­rable thing was the can­dle-lit stage. The suf­fus­ing warmth of hun­dreds of can­dles is some­thing I as­so­ciate with the grand­est City Liv­ery din­ners—with so many flames, all of them flick­er­ing and mov­ing, it’s strangely en­liven­ing. Shad­ows lose def­i­ni­tion, but not depth, reds and golds par­tic­u­larly stand out in the orange light and the over­all ef­fect is preter­nat­u­ral.

In a theatre, can­dles are also hap­pily demo­cratic. Rather than fac­ing a blind­ing wall of light, the ac­tors can see be­yond the stage and they can em­pha­sise them­selves by mov­ing into the glow of a can­dle. The au­di­ence can also look at each other. Emerg­ing into the cold and dark af­ter­wards, I felt rec­on­ciled by this mag­i­cal fes­ti­val of lights to the abrupt start of win­ter out­side. JG

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