THEATRE : Where all the world's a heritage centre

AS I walked into Shakespeare's Globe on the South Bank, which opened last week for its first full season, a dapper American TV presenter was standing in the entrance talking to camera: "For an audience," he enthused, "this is as close as you can get to an Elizabethan theatre-going experience." It was a dismal endorsement. If he is right, and there seem to be those involved with the Globe who take a similar view , then a gem of a theatre will soon join the London Dungeon and Madame Tussaud's on the tourist map, and theatre-goers need only go once.

There are worrying signs: the hawkers have display baskets that contain mini-champagne bottles (pounds 6) and salmon bagels (pounds 3). Before the play, actors in masks mingle with the audience, doing silly bits of interactive business. And over-anxious grey-haired ushers tell you there's only five minutes till the play starts, please don't walk that way, and no, could you not sit on the stairs. This could be the National Trust.

It makes you wonder if the Globe realises just how important a role it has to play, not within the heritage industry, but within British theatre. Thankfully, there is no chance of recreating the Elizabethan theatre-going experience: daft ambition, that it is. Slipping past the TV presenter to take my place with the groundlings (pounds 5), I didn't join a heaving, sweating mass of drunk, illiterate, smelly 16th-century Londoners. I joined half a dozen other innocents who hadn't heard the weather forecast.

It is not an Elizabethan-themed experience that the Globe ought to offer, but something something decisively new. When Mark Rylance steps forward to deliver the prologue of Henry V ("O for a Muse of fire ... " etc.) there is a thrilling appropriateness. The lines work better here than anywhere else. This is the setting they were written for. Rylance says (in effect), "Listen, there's just us up here, with no tricks and only a couple of marbled pillars to hide behind, and we want to take you to France and back. All you have to do is pay attention."

There are ravishing costumes (from designer Jenny Tiramani), three entrances, a trap-door and a balcony. That's all. In the way it restricts the action, bringing us close to the dramatic circumstances for which it was written, the Globe rejects the director-designer axis that has dominated for so long and returns us to the actor's words playing on an audience's imagination.

With Rylance's Henry, this is exactly what happens. He is a superb Shakespearean, with an engagingly hesitant manner that invites us into his mind. He suggests again and again that he has reached a crossroads, and that his next thought could go either way. In this lovely, intimate theatre, he finds a stillness and poise.

If the audience is expected to listen hard, then the actors are expected to speak well. The most important project the Globe should undertake - leaving aside the exhibition hall, research centre, educational programmes, cafe, etc - is to establish a crack team of Shakespeare actors who can handle the complexities of his verse with the skill and expressiveness of concert soloists. If they had that, then this project - hearing these plays in this particular space - would make glorious sense.

The Henry cast, in this respect, are a good deal better than Winter's Tale cast, with strong performances from a begrimed John McEnery as Pistol, and a proud, hirsute David Fielder as Fluellen. The boys play the girls in this all-male production, and Toby Cockerell as Katherine and Ben Walden as the gentlewoman Alice are funny. Richard Olivier directs a solid, pageant- like production that inspires appreciative cheers and boos from the audience.

The Winter's Tale, directed by David Freeman, has a burnished North African feel, with red earth and modern tractor tyres for Leontes's throne. While it is a mistake to make the costumes plainer than the back wall, Freeman stages the sheep-shearing festival enchantingly, with dozens of sheepskins covering the earth. As the itinerant thief Autolycus, the excellent Nicholas le Prevost sings his songs as a strained Bob Dylan balladeer. But too often, elsewhere, the verse is forced for less obviously comic reasons.

The Fifties musical Damn Yankees, by Adler and Ross, takes the Faust legend and turns it into one about a baseball fan who sells his soul to the devil in return for playing a starring role in the Washington Senators' victory over the Yankees. Like one of those old-style celebrity vehicles, this Broadway revival is tailored to the star presence of Jerry Lewis as Applegate, or the devil. Now aged 71, Lewis plays off his fame, breaking into his nutty-professor voice, to the delight of the audience, and wandering round with the predatory silkiness of a Savile Row tailor. With each exit he gave a little skip and a tilt of the head.

In the second act Lewis has his own number ("Those Were the Good Old Days") when he hijacks the show for quarter of an hour, tossing canes in the air, failing to catch them and then - as if to cover up the embarrassment - telling joke after joke after joke (some funny, some old). Vaudeville returns with a vengeance. Damn Yankees is a very enjoyable, hummable show.

The Soho Theatre not only stages new plays, it also offers - as it elegantly terms it - "a comprehensive writers' workshop programme" and "script surgeries", which give "one to one dramaturgical support". Skeleton, by Tanika Gupta, was "inspired" by a story by Rabindranath Tagore, about a medical student returning home to his Bengali village, and taking possession of a skeleton that comes to life with a past of its own. I was intrigued watching this undramatic and over-explained piece by what people talk about during "one to one dramaturgical support".

'Henry V' & 'The Winter's Tale': Shakespeare's Globe, SE1 (0171 344 4444), in rep to 21 Sept. 'Damn Yankees': Adelphi, WC2 (0171 344 0055). 'Skeleton': Soho Theatre, W1 (0171 402 0022), to 21 Jun.

Sport
Mourinho lost his temper as well as the match
sportLiverpool handed title boost as Sunderland smash manager’s 77-game home league run
Voices
Sweet tweet: Victoria Beckham’s selfie, taken on her 40th birthday on Thursday
voices... and her career-long attack on the absurd criteria by which we define our 'betters', by Ellen E Jones
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Voices
Clock off: France has had a 35‑hour working week since 1999
voicesThere's no truth to a law banning work emails after 6pm, but that didn’t stop media hysteria
Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Life & Style
Lana Del Rey, Alexa Chung and Cara Delevingne each carry their signature bag
fashionMulberry's decision to go for the super-rich backfired dramatically
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Life & Style
Sampling wine in Turin
food + drink...and abstaining may be worse than drinking too much, says scientist
Arts & Entertainment
Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin has been working on the novels since the mid-Nineties
books
News
Easter a dangerous time for dogs
these are the new ones. Old ones are below them... news
News
Brand said he
people
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Sport
Roger Federer celebrates his victory over Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo Masters
sport
Arts & Entertainment
The monster rears its head as it roars into the sky
film
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Apprentice IT Technician

    £150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

    1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

    £153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

    1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

    £150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

    Sales Associate Apprentice

    £150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

    Day In a Page

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit