House of Bards

Whatever has a theatre, and in particular one that hasn't even opened yet, done to deserve such a reputation? The Globe, Shakespeare's open-air playhouse reconstructed on its original site, has been surprisingly slow to find a place in the public's affections. Each month, some benefit or appeal takes place; and yet, whatever the venue's merits, many London theatregoers hold a deep-seated suspicion of it. What it will offer, they fear, is a Bard fossilised in Elizabethan amber. "I don't know why, but it's very hard for us to get rid of that impression," chief executive, Michael Holden, admits exasperatedly. "We're really not about recreating 'authentick-with-a-K' Shakespeare."

Given this image problem, the launch of the Globe's Shakespeare workshop series is timely. Conducted by some of Britain's finest actors and directors, the workshops offer the first chance to see the performance space in use. Importantly, they also reveal a theatre unafraid to innovate. Some traditional Bardolatry kicks off on Wednesday, with Shakespeare's Stars (6.30pm) boasting more top-brass thesps than a Labour fundraiser circa 1987: Dench, Lapotaire, Bolam et al. But the programme soon leaves the beaten track with a range of quirky topics - Bill Gaskill on asides, Ian Judge on the daylight audience - that wouldn't look out of place on an English degree finals paper. Highlights include Mark Rylance - the new artistic director - on playing to the Elizabethan auditorium, Brian Cox on his Regent's Park Richard III, and Sir Peter Hall on how the Globe's stage might change his RSC Julius Caesar. Doubting Thomases take note: it's enough to give a theatre a good name.

ADRIAN TURPIN

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