Audience plays its part in Shakespeare's wooden O

FIRST NIGHT

Standing on the stage of the newly resurrected Globe Theatre, its artistic director Mark Rylance yesterday opened Henry V by asking: "May we cram/Within this wooden O the very casques/ That did affright the air of Agincourt?"

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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

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