Shakespeare's Globe announced its new 2000 season today, the open-air theatre's fourth since opening in 1997. Launching the summer schedule of four period pieces, which runs from May 12 to Sept. 24, will be a new, high profile production of The Tempest, starring Vanessa Redgrave as Prospero.
According to Globe artistic director Mark Rylance, the unique casting is partly an effort to redress the gender imbalance which last year saw many female Shakespearean parts at the Globe given to males, including the Cleopatra which Rylance played himself. However, he insists that the decision is not merely a nod to political correctness.
Rylance was particularly keen to have Redgrave play Prospero, a part which her father played for the Royal Shakespeare Company five decades ago. Redgrave's personal humanitarian experience of aiding refugees from war-torn countries, he said, will make her that much more sympathetic to the role. The Tempest will be directed by Lenka Udovicki, a refugee from Belgrade. It has not been decided whether Redgrave will tackle the role as a woman acting as a man or, alternatively, as an altogether female Prospero. The production opens on May 26, following previews from May 12, and continues until Sept. 10.
It will be followed by Hamlet, directed by Giles Block and starring Rylance in the title role. It's a part that Rylance has performed some 300 times before, for the RSC from 1988 to 1992, but one he says that he wanted to play again. "I was never fully satisfied with Act Five," he admits, and he found the prospect of staging the intimate tragedy in the wide-open space of the Globe an irresistible challenge. Hamlet opens June 9, previews from May 28, and continues until Sept. 24.
The second half of the 2000 season will see two rarely performed pieces joining the repertory. First, The Two Noble Kinsmen, a collaboration between Shakespeare and John Fletcher, which is believed to include the last words the bard ever wrote for the theatre. It tells the story of cousins and prisoners of war Palamon and Arcite whose friendship turns to rivalry when they both fall in love with the same woman. Directed by Tim Carroll, The Two Noble Kinsmen opens Aug. 4, previews from July 29, and continues until Sept. 23. The final production of the year will be The Antipodes, a screwball comedy by Shakespeare contemporary Richard Brome, who was also the manservant of the more well-known author and actor Ben Jonson. The tale of a man driven mad by his obsession to travel the world, it features the first practicing psychiatrist character on the English stage. The Antipodes, directed by American Gerald Freeman, opens on Aug. 18, previews from Aug. 12, and continues until Sept. 22.
At a press conference today, Rylance also revealed attendance figures from the Globe's 1999 season which saw 200,000 visitors fill houses to an average of 89 percent capacity. Over one-third of visitors, he stressed, paid no more than £5 for yard tickets. Prices for those standing room tickets will remain fixed although other prices, for gallery seating, will rise by £1 across the board in 2000. Booking for the this year's season opens on Feb. 1.
For more information, contact the Globe box office on 011-44-207-401 9919.