Audience plays its part in Shakespeare's wooden O
Saturday 07 June 1997
Last year saw a dummy run of The Two Gentlemen of Verona, to work out the dynamics of the new space and the placement of two crucial columns supporting the stage roof (hearsay from some seats suggests that the problem may be insoluble). But now the late Sam Wanamaker's dream of rebuilding Shakespeare's Globe at Bankside, on the south side of the Thames in London, has finally come true.
After nearly two weeks of previews, the press were finally allowed in on Thursday for The Winter's Tale, but the official opening was reserved for Henry V, directed by Richard Olivier, whose father, Lord Olivier, directed the famous wartime screen version.
With no one knowing quite what to expect, the atmosphere at the opening matinee was subdued. The white exterior walls of the lovingly reconstructed building glowed in the hot afternoon sun but a lot of the oak seats were empty. As a result the audience took a while to warm up, but Olivier's rather anodyne production gradually took off as the actors actively encouraged their audience to hiss and boo the villainous French in authentic style.
Following the Elizabethan practice of not allowing women on stage, this Henry V is an all-male affair. But anyone expecting a new gender-bending interpretation will be disappointed. Toby Cockerell is a delightfully demure Katherine of France but there are barely any other female roles and elsewhere Olivier plays by the rules. Rylance, widely regarded as the finest actor of his generation, is suitably boyish as the young king and his performance grows more moving as the play progresses.
The audience were clearly delighted by the glowing colours of the period costumes, which matched everyone's ideas of what Elizabethan dress should be, with ruffs using as many as 20 yards of hand-sewn linen.
The big test comes next Thursday with arrival of the Queen for the official Royal Opening. We'll know then whether or not the second Elizabethan age is truly upon us. By then, she and the rest of the audience will know the answer to Rylance's question. Have they succeeded in cramming Shakespeare's world within this modern-day wooden O? If yesterday's enthusiastic crowd is anything to go by, the answer will be a resounding "Yes".
At a particularly tender moment, a gentle warble filled the air. No, not a singer in the musicians' gallery above the stage. Unfortunately, this was thetrilling of a mobile phone. Authenticity only goes so far.
Poveglia: 'World's most haunted island' up for sale...is anyone brave enough to buy it?
South Korea ferry passengers who were told to stay put 'got trapped' aboard sinking ship
Are beards attractive? Ryan Gosling says yes, but science says no. Take the A-list facial hair challenge and find out who's right
Oscar Pistorius trial: Defence witness 'unqualified' to testify
Andre Johnson: Wu-Tang Clan-discovered rapper severed his penis and jumped from LA building
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
US Navy christens huge $3 billion destroyer ship USS Zumwalt that appears as a fishing boat on enemy radar
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
Nigel Farage on Have I Got News For You: Ukip leader ridiculed over expenses and party 'fruitcakes'
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
- 1 Poveglia: 'World's most haunted island' up for sale...is anyone brave enough to buy it?
- 2 Big Bang Theory to get special Star Wars episode with help from Lucasfilm
- 3 Babies cry at night to stop mothers procreating, scientists claim
- 4 Pharrell Williams 'Happy': British Muslims dance to song in video
- 5 24 people applied for the 'world's toughest job', here are their interviews
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...
£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...