This month we hear from Victoria Lane, Library & Archive Manager at Shakespeare’s Globe about celebrating visionary actor & director Sam Wanamaker, in the year he would have turned 100.
However, along standard archive display cases we wanted to raise consciousness about Sam and his life and give him an active and dynamic resonance. How can you present a whole life to people who are rushing to a show and have little time? How is it possible to reanimate Sam and give him ‘presentness’? We decided to use our photographic and moving image archives to create a large screen display in the Globe Foyer showing 100 images and films (that didn’t require sound) following the chronology of Sam’s life. What was interesting was that it had an immediate impact within our organisation – unlike the traditional archive display in a case.
People were touched by it, wanted to know more and have access to the screen show. There is something poignant about the panning shots of the site, covered with upturned huge metal bins (it was formally the bin depot for Southwark Council), with Sam weaving in and out of these as if they didn’t exist. As he points to St. Paul’s across the river, the film records his absolute resolution that this unprepossessing piece of land would be transformed. You can see his charm and single mindedness at work. The screen show also documents the army of patrons and supporters, standing alongside Sam, who were an integral part of his grand scheme. They are featured in the images or they have taken them, as in the case of Alan Butland’s photo of Sam celebrating the victory, after a High Court Battle, to secure the site in 1986.
The screen display only provides an extremely fragmentary version of Sam’s life. It shows the rites of passage of birth, work and family that every viewer can relate to. Each representation is a mediation of Sam: Sam slowly drowning in concrete in the final scenes of the 1949 film ‘Give us this Day’, Sam posing for a head shot and Sam socialising or doing a press call. It allows us to see his vision coming into being as we stand within it. It shows us, in a snapshot, how Sam’s vision made the Globe happen.