The Playgoer: Rylance Under the Microscope

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Thursday, July 08, 2010

Rylance Under the Microscope

A must read in the Independent for any fans of that indescribable stage actor Mark Rylance.  But describe him they do!  Especially the, um, odd bits.

Rylance is softly spoken and seems vulnerable; innocent, indeed. Received wisdom casts him as an eccentric, or even, in The Daily Telegraph's words, "as nutty as a fruitcake". Critics cite Rylance's habit of giving cryptic speeches at awards ceremonies. Receiving his 2008 Tony, he recited an obscure prose-poem by the Midwestern writer Louis Jenkins.
There's also his insistence that Shakespeare didn't write the plays of Shakespeare, which – given that Rylance was the founding director of Shakespeare's Globe theatre – raised a few eyebrows. Mention that he had Jane Horrocks pee live onstage in his Hare Krishna version of Macbeth, and you've got Rylance-as-weirdo bang to rights.
But what the Telegraph considers weird may simply be, in Rylance's case, unselfish, iconoclastic and left-wing. A champion of progressive causes, he is an ambassador for Survival International, which campaigns for indigenous peoples. His artistic tastes are esoteric: he talks about his own work with Phoebus' Cart, the company he set up with his wife, the musician/composer Claire van Kampen, as "experimental", and his Globe tenure was one ongoing investigation into Elizabethan and other elemental theatre practices. He has a hippie's distaste for matters financial, and left the Globe after a dispute over money. He laments how "the religion of today, consumerism, bombards our grosser appetites, and affects our sensitivity to the subtler things in life". Rylance's so-called eccentricity is his way of reactivating that sensitivity. 
He's currently teaming up with frequent director/enabler Matthew Warchus for an intriguing West End revival of David Hirson's cult-classic La Bete.  A hot ticket, I'm sure.

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