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Shakespeare's Globe announces 2005 season

Preview by Oli Burley

A VOYAGE of discovery is underway on the South Bank as Shakespeare’s Globe prepares to wave off its favourite son.

Mark Rylance’s decision to make his tenth season as artistic director his last has plunged 'the wooden O' back into unchartered territory.

The search for his successor will undoubtedly give The Season of the World and the Underworld, which begins with The Tempest in May, a fascinating undercurrent.

For as the Globe re-evaluates its own essence, this year’s schedule brings together four plays that explore what it is to be human.

The relationship between body and soul – represented in Greek culture by the underworld and world – is at best complex, if not unfathomable.

In The Tempest, the bard delves deeply into the human psyche by blending the supernatural with the very real, focusing on the fate of Prospero's daughter, Miranda.

Rylance, himself, takes on the part of the shipwrecked Duke, a role that unites him once again with Master of Play Tim Carroll following their highly-acclaimed version of Twelfth Night in 2002.

A castaway's guise is one that fits Rylance well, some might suggest, arguing that in the last decade his increasingly influential persona has become the Globe’s raison d’etre. But in truth, he will leave an impressive legacy in his wake.

Since the 1996 season, 750,000 people have paid just £5 to stand in the yard, while prices have been held for a second year in a row after a 93% attendance rate in 2004.

This populist revival of the bard’s work has harmonised innovative productions such as Cymbeline in 2001 with spendidly-indulgent Elizabethan creations.

The mix continues in 2005 as modern stagings of Pericles and The Storm (a new play by Peter Oswald) vye for attention with original practice versions of The Tempest and The Winter's Tale.

Look out for the latter, for under the direction of John Dove - whose articulate Measure for Measure was undoubtedly last season's highlight - the jealousies of Leontes, King of Sicilia, should be compelling.

In such company, it is no wonder that Rylance, in his annual letter to Globe patrons, writes: "I can’t imagine acting Shakespeare anywhere else now, so I expect I will be back."

Let us hope that the man who has done so much to make Sam Wanamaker’s dream become a reality has favourable winds.

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