Two Italian gentlemen to open Globe next year

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The Independent Online
The first play to be performed at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre - a recreation of the thatched wooden "O" used by the playwright - will be The Two Gentlemen of Verona, it was announced yesterday.

Rarely performed, the early comedy is considered to be one of the least impressive of Shakespeare's plays, with much of the humour provided by the clownish Launce and his sour-natured dog Crab.

Mark Rylance, the artistic director of the Globe, said he chose the comedy, which centres on the romantic twists and turns of two friends, Proteus and Valentine, because it was an early work by Shakespeare, and appropriate for the fledgling theatre's first production. "We don't want to run before we can walk," he said. "I did consider Cymbeline but I don't think we are ready for that yet."

Part of the problem is that the stage is still being built. The comedy will be performed on a temporary platform to ensure the stage is correct before being set in oak. The first full season begins in June next year.

The Two Gentlemen of Verona will be directed for the theatre's Prologue season by Jack Shepherd, the playwright, actor and director, and long- time member of Bill Bryden's Cottesloe Company at the National Theatre.

Postal booking for the production opened yesterday. Phone bookings will begin on 23 April, with 500 tickets at pounds 5 each for those prepared to stand. Unreserved benches will be pounds 12 and reserved benches pounds 16.

Rylance has yet to establish the core cast of ten actors and actresses who will perform in the first season, starting on 21 August. But he plans to act in The Two Gentlemen himself, in a part yet to be decided.

Last August Mr Rylance revealed that he hoped present-day audiences would replicate the behaviour of their less restrained Elizabethan predecessors by throwing fruit or heckling. Yesterday he revealed that he would be interested in reviving another tradition - intervals between the acts.

"Elizabethan theatre was a little like a baseball game or cricket match. It involved music, clowns coming out to undermine what was presented. Food and drink was passed round."

However, he admitted he was troubled by suggestions that the project on the riverside in Southwark close to the site of the original Globe was marketing itself as an authentic reconstruction.

"There is no way that anyone can say this is the authentic Globe. But it is the best attempt at the moment," he said.

"We are doing an radar test on the archeological remains which stand below Southwark Bridge Road. That evidence will be available in five year's time and we will alter the Globe in the light of that."