Globe director looks forward to the bear pit

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The Independent Online
The stage of the new Shakespeare Globe Theatre will be like a 16th-century bear-baiting pit in which the audience heckles the actors, the theatre's artistic director said yesterday.

Mark Rylance, the 35-year-old actor whose appointment was announced last week, told a press conference about his aims for the still-uncompleted open-air theatre on the south bank of the Thames.

"The Globe will be marvellously like a bear-baiting pit or an arena in that the audience and actors will share our space and we will bait our inner bears," he said. "I can think of nothing more delightful than the audience heckling or throwing things." Mr Rylance has been involved with the reconstruction of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre for four years and has played a series of lead roles in Royal Shakespeare Company productions.

His first task is to decide which play will be staged for next year's official gala opening of the theatre, planned for 14 June - the birthday of the late Sam Wanamaker, the actor and director who conceived the pounds 30m project in 1970. Mr Rylance said the first production would undoubtedly be by Shakespeare, with King Lear and Henry V front-runners. But the darker dramas, such as Titus Andronicus, could wait.

The choice would partly depend on the actors who were available, he said. "You can't do Romeo and Juliet without a Romeo or Juliet." He may act in the first play, although he will not direct it.

He has already had approaches from actors hoping to join the company of Globe players he must set up before the opening of the theatre, which will offer a 2pm matinee and a 6.30 evening performance only between May and September. In an attempt to recreate the atmosphere of the 16th- century Globe, no artificial lighting will be used and the interpretations of the plays will be faithful to that time. It will stage Shakespeare as well as plays by his contemporaries and the medieval, Greek and Roman drama which helped inspire them.

Mr Rylance said yesterday that he was determined to give more control to actors and to dedicate space in the theatre to "purer" productions of Shakespeare which recreated the original accents of the day and worked from facsimiles of the original texts.

"A lot of my friends despair at the moment of the lack of involvement they have in their own theatre," he said. "We must get them to take responsibility again."

But he emphasised that the Globe would not be for the elite but would provide entertainment for all, like the Globe theatre which stood near by in Shakespeare's day.

"This is theatre for the common people," he said. "They can just come to enjoy the sunshine and the rain but if they come with their heart and head and body and soul I will be providing something for that breadth of human activity."