Director who gave Shakespeare back to masses quits Globe

He has made it one of the most popular theatres in London and triggered the biggest rediscovery of Shakespeare in a decade.

But Mark Rylance announced yesterday that he will step down as artistic director of the Globe at the end of next year, surprising his fans and raising a major question-mark over the theatre's future.

When the Globe opened officially in 1997, some theatre-lovers were suspicious of the reproduction Elizabethan theatre which was the brainchild of the American director Sam Wanamaker - father of Zoë - who battled for 30 years to get it built. Many feared it would be a "museum theatre," a heritage destination guaranteed only to appeal to the tourists.

But Mark Rylance's fans are adamant he has proved them wrong. With innovative staging, he challenged ideas of how Shakespeare could be presented. He made the comedies seem genuinely funny and, even more amazing, made the budgets balance. And he appeared to love it.

"Never has an actor had such an opportunity as you entrusted to me when I was asked to help bring your dream of a working Globe Theatre through its birth into its childhood," Rylance said in a personal letter announcing his decision to colleagues and friends.

But so completely has the actor dominated the venue that yesterday few could think of anyone likely to replace him when he stands down after 10 years.

Andrew Gurr, a Shakespeare scholar and emeritus professor of Reading University, said: "The Globe has been a much more substantial achievement than we ever thought it was going to be. The sense of the performance space as somewhere that people actively participate - particularly the groundlings [who stand in front of the stage] - was something none of us anticipated. It's probably the biggest discovery in Shakespeare in the last 10 years - a real revelation," Professor Gurr said.

"It has been tremendously enlivening, particularly for the young. In a curious way, it's put me off the rest of theatre. I no longer enjoy the Royal Shakespeare Company. I started walking out of productions because they were so much deader than the Shakespeare at the Globe."

Others queried the constant experimentation with all-male casts, as in Shakespeare's time, or "authentic" productions, where all the costumes, even down to underwear, were hand-sown as in the 16th century. "What has that spirit of experimentation really uncovered?" asked one.

Jasper Britton, who appeared in several productions, including as Macbeth, said Rylance had been "pretty much the best artistic director I've every worked for, in terms of the man in the building who you deal with on a daily basis. He was very approachable, hands-on, thinking deeply about things all the time. I always had the sense that he took the responsibility very seriously and was very thoughtful about how people were feeling.

"It's one of the best attended theatres in London - most performances I played were pretty full, regardless of the play and what the critics made of it."

There have been triumphs. Rylance's all-male production of Twelfth Night in 2002 saw him lauded for his portrayal of Olivia. It won him the London Critics' Circle Theatre Award for best Shakespearean performance and an Olivier Award nomination. His programming, too, won praise. He won the London Evening Standard Theatre Special Award for the 2002 Globe season, entitled Cupid and Psyche.

But the difficulties of performing in such an exposed space have deterred many actors. Julian Glover, Vanessa Redgrave and Janet McTeer have all appeared, but many other theatre stalwarts seem to have avoided the challenge.

Arts and Entertainment
British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose' in memoir of a grief-stricken daughter who became obsessed with training a goshawk
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge has announced his departure from Blink-182

music
Arts and Entertainment
The episode saw the surprise return of shifty caravan owner Susan Wright, played by a Pauline Quirke (ITV)

Review: Broadchurch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ava DuVernay and David Oyelowo are teaming up for a Hurricane Katrina drama

film
Arts and Entertainment
Just folk: The Unthanks

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
    Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

    Front National family feud?

    Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
    Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

    Pot of gold

    Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
    10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

    From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

    While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
    Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore