Sam Wanamaker Festival

15 years ago I was part of the team sent by Guildhall to perform at The Globe in what was then called The William Poel Festival. For Scott and I (and Matt in a silent role) it allowed us a first chance to see what it was to perform on that stage. Many of us from that event across some 20 drama schools are still going in this industry. More have quit. 15 years later and there are still a few golden geeks rattling around in the crucible. We still bump into each other from time to time.

As it happened I was working there today. Not on the mainstage dammit, or underneath in the cavernous party room, but a wee corporate gig up in the little Balcony Room – entertaining some exhausted Australians while the sun set behind St Paul’s. They had just flown non stop from Perth to London in 17 hours. An historic fight with no stop overs. Ultra long haul. Better than sitting in a sterile room in Abu Dhabi for 5 hours changing planes. Visit-London was wining and dining all the confused Aussies before they turn around and go back home on Tuesday.

We got called in to do some tasty little vignettes between courses. A perfect evening for it, and what with the clocks changing, everyone in London is confused about what time it is too. The atmosphere was electric in the building with all the drama students – all that youthful vigor helping keep our Aussies awake. That and our dynamite charisma and mastery, of course. They had a lovely time upstairs with us. It’s always a happy gig up there.

The William Poel Festival has changed its name to the Sam Wanamaker Festival. It was happening today and 19 drama schools including one from America were in attendance. The pit was like a mosh pit, capable of nothing but inexplicable dumbshow and noise. On that vast stage, a rotation of two young actors were learning how to keep the energy and focus with a house that will howl for twenty seconds if you say the word “bum”. I remember the energy of that home crowd. They’re all around you. They’re behind you. And this lot were going completely mental.


I was sneaking in and out at the back of The Pit, catching as many as I could. It’s a real test, an audience like that. You can do anything and get loads of validation. You have to work much harder to be spare. There were some lovely simple moments. And there were some milky eggy pancakes and face pulls. But they were undeniably having fun up there, every one of them.

It got me to thinking back to that sunny day in my life 15 years ago. How I felt at the time and afterwards. How it went. Where life has taken many of us since that day. Life’s rich tapestry.

I caught as much as I could of this year before I had to go meet the client. l was sad to have to leave before Guildhall performed – I’d like to have seen theirs and connected with the old place. I stayed for Bristol Old Vic which I was glad of as it was directed by an acquaintance, and they held the space. RADA were conspicuous by their absence. 15 years ago it was Freddie Stephenson and Sian Brooke.

15 years!!? Where did the time go? I ran into Patrick Spottiswoode after work, in the bar. He heads up Globe Education. He was there front and centre when I did that event, and he’s still there now, smiling. “15 years, mate” I muse, looking at all the shiny kids in the bar. “Tell me about it.” He says with an air of incomprehension. “Closer to 35 for me. 35 years. 35.”

I go home intending an early bed. And then I stay up past one talking dreaming and reading. Then “oh shit, my blog.”

Maybe that’s where the time went. Into dreaming. And maybe that’s okay.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

2 thoughts on “Sam Wanamaker Festival”

  1. Met Sam years ago when he dragged the Shakespeare Theatre, Liverpool, into a place for plays as opposed to girls. Lovely fellow, really was a working actor!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: