United's Historic Triumph: A city colonised by delight

Julius Caesar Shakespeare's Globe London
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The Independent Online
THEY BURST out of the Sports Bar on the Plaza Catalunya, flushed with booze and joy. They scampered through the detritus of beer bottles and crushed plastic cups that littered the pavement. Even Barcelona's dour taxi drivers honked and waved their congratulations

"ChampiONes, ChampiONes," they went on, stunned by that astonishing last- minute result. "We've fookin won the coop," shouted Stewart from Manchester, his voice hoarse with disbelief, and from the efforts of recent days. "This is only the best night of my entire life."

They swung down the Rambla, the pulsating artery of Barcelona, where euphoric fans surged past riot police poised in dark blue combat gear, crash helmets clipped to their waist. Police vans waited at regular intervals, engines gently running, blue lights blinking.

"Glory Glory Man United, as the Reds go marchin' in," the fans roared on. They pressed into Laura's souvenir shop, still open at midnight, bought scarlet straw hats with white pompoms and marched down the boulevard with a triumphant "Eeayaddio, we've won the cup!"

In the vast Robin Hood tavern, they were knocking bag foaming points of Guinness to the astonishment of Andres, the security guard. "It's incredible the quantity of alcohol these Manchester fans put away, pint after pint, and nothing to eat but a packet of crisps!"

For some it was too much, and they leaned against a tree, zonked with exhaustion, drink and contentment. A few brave Bayern fans moved amongst the throng, glumly eating hamburgers, unmolested. They'd suffered enough. An occasional whiff of cannabis spiked the soft Mediterranean night, adding to the festive air.

"We're going to drink all through the night and go home in the morning," said a beaming Dermot from Paisley, clutching a vast blow-up Champions' League cup. How do you feel, I asked his pal Andy. "Absolutely brilliant. Elated. Over the moon."

A FEW YEARS BACK, the great German director, Peter Stein brought across 200 extras to form the crowd in his production of Julius Caesar at the Edinburgh Festival. In his new all-male staging of the play at Shakespeare's Globe, Mark Rylance does not have to go to such costly lengths to create this crucial presence.

Indeed, with a courtyard full of groundlings at whom Brutus and Mark Anthony can direct their political make-or-break funeral oration, you could say the situation is reversed - a large proportion of the audience here is paying for the privilege of impersonating the throng that rhetorical skill in the play so easily turns into a mob.

Julius Caesar was one of the first Shakespeare plays to be staged in the newly-built Globe precisely 400 years ago, so its makes a fitting start to what is being billed as an "anniversary season".

Certainly, the peace - in theory at least - is uncommonly well suited to this base. Rylance's production follows the original practice of having the Romans dressed in contemporary Elizabethan garb (rough, slops etc), with an antique adjustments like the togas that are tired over this attire in the assassination scene.

Here, though, there is a triple time-frame effect, for the cast members planted around the audience are camouflaged in present time mufti, with reverse baseball caps and sneakers.

Whilst the plants from the cast, aroused by the sentimental pitch of Mark Lewis Jones' ranting unshaded Anthony, urged torchings and insurrection, the punters stood by as phlegmatic as statues, perhaps scared that they might drop their precious mobile phones.

The Elizabethan dress brings home to you what a live and touchy issue the play's subject - the Essex of Tyrannicid - must have been to the original audiences. But in other respects, this is a decent rather than an exciting Julius Caesar.