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Mark Rylance – a Shakespearian masterclass

July 29, 2012

Last night we became London tourists and took the tube to Southwark from whence we marched towrds the river and rested awhile at the Globe theatre. The Olympic travel warning had made us decide against driving or cabbing and sure enough the tube was much busier than a standard Saturday evening and by the fact that they meandered rather than strode with purpose, we could tell most people weren’t Londoners .

The sun was shining and we found a table in the theatre tavern where we gorged ourselves on a three course pre-theatre menu whilst I looked across at Sir Christopher Wren’s masterpiece and the Millenium bridge. This was a vista of content, made glorious by the summer sun and talk.

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Entering the Globe theatre

And so then we made our way to the open air theatre  – looking marvellous with the crowds packing every bench and standing in the centre. An American woman was so enthused as she felt she really was stepping in to the set of Shakespeare in Love. And the minstrels played from the balcony as we awaited the entrance of Richard, brother of the King to deliver those infamous lines -Now is the winter etc.

And there he was. Mark Rylance, who I have raved about before and repeat it now. He is so easy in his role, so at home with it he plays with the words, the intonation, the impediments and of course the audience so that we understand his motivations, his plotting, his conniving and his anger. We laugh with him as his lightness of touch relaxes us and we are in on his jokes. He is brilliant. He plays the physical disability down – there is a hump of sorts, a withered forearm and slight limp, but he plays his twisted bitterness, resentment and anger in a way that lays it open for us.

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Mark Rylance as Richard III

The play is cast using only men – as it would have been originally – and  it is the female parts that also shine as brightly. Particularly the incredibly moving exchange between Richard and Elizabeth (the mother of the two young princes he has had killed) as he tries to persuade her to arrange for him to marry her daughter. She is a wounded tigress fighting in defence of her offspring, as quick witted and sharp as Richard himself. Marvellous.

The first and final thirds are the most riveting, with a dip pre and post interval, but as a fan of the comedies and tragedies rather than the histories, I found this surprisingly enjoyable – and with the whole Globe experience adding to it. An easy four stars.

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