On the first visit to the Globe each season I try to
discover what changes have been made to the stage and
galleries. The most obvious change this year on taking
my seat was that the frons scenae wasn't there!
The panels that form the back wall of the stage had been
removed and the actors could be seen dressing and making
up in the tiring house behind the stage. In fact
when I sat in my lower gallery seat and my eyes became
accustomed to the bright sunlight, the first actor I saw
being laced into his corset (or whatever is the correct
term) was the director of the Globe Mark Rylance.
He was playing Olivia in this all-male production.
This was an interesting attempt to reproduce the
environment at the Middle Temple Hall in the City of
London earlier in the year where the company had
performed the piece. I went to a performance of
Richard II there in 2003. The playgoers are
led to the grand hall through large rooms, one of which
is being used by the players for dressing and making up.
Shortly before the performance began, the panels were
replaced and the musicians in the gallery above the
stage began to play. Hand bells were rung to summon the
playgoers and the excited, mainly young, groundlings
milled around the stage eager for the play to start.
Initially I was put off by the Scottish accent of
Liam Brennan's Orsino. I found it difficult to follow,
but soon I got used to it and appreciated this actor who
works so well with Rylance here and in 2003. The central
character of Viola was played very well by Michael
Brown. She was almost indistinguishable from Rhys
Meredith's Sebastian which made the often implausible
plot believable. I'm sure that the original Globe
playgoers were hushed like we were when Orsino,
seemingly endlessly kissed Viola/Cesario a boy playing a
girl pretending to be a boy playing a girl!
Paul Chahidi as Maria led the comic side of the play
beautifully. At the start I thought Bill Stewart's Sir
Toby Belch was going to be more paralytic than drunk,
but he was "but mad, not drown'd".
But what of Rylance as Olivia? At first his jerky
performance seemed overdone, but it was ultimately just
right. In one wonderful moment, Olivia bravely, and
obviously in terror, breaks up the fight between
Sebastian and Sir Toby with a halberd, then kisses
Sebastian and faints. Hilarious and moving. I
continue to be a fan.