Samuel Barnett as Viola and Mark Rylance as Olivia in the Shakespeare’s Globe production of “Twelfth Night,” directed by Tim Carroll, staged in New York.
(Joan Marcus)

London’s Globe Theatre, the replica of William Shakespeare’s Elizabethan playhouse on the Thames, launched an on-demand video service this week that will allow the famed company to reach more fans of the Bard than ever.

One of its biggest advantages is the detail it makes it possible to observe in the Globe’s Jacobean costuming. The colors, the fabrics, even the stitching all come to life in a way that’s hard to appreciate from the back of the open-air playhouse with a pair of opera glasses. What’s more, there’s no threat of rain.

It’s sort of like Netflix for Shakespeare, but instead of paying a monthly fee, users pay for each video they watch — about $6.00 to rent for a week and $12.00 to own. Through GlobePlayer.TV, video downloads are DRM-free, which means those who buy performances will be able to share them with friends as well as upload them to a variety of mobile devices, assuming they fit: Each MP4 file is 3GB.

So far, the Globe is offering more than 50 of its own performances, including an all-male staging of “Twelfth Night” that featured Mark Rylance as Countess Olivia and Stephen Fry as Malvolio. The site also offers a library of international stagings, which means you can watch a 2012 staging of “Macbeth” in Polish, or “The Winter’s Tale” in Yoruba if you choose.

It seems like a natural step for reaching international audiences — live broadcasts of opera productions have proven successful draws in movie theaters and ball parks. New York’s Metropolitan Opera offers a similar service through its iPad app, Met Opera On Demand, which allows fans to access to its “Live in HD” presentations (the ones that go to movie theaters all over the world) as well as regular telecasts and radio broadcasts.

Video performances of all 154 sonnets are free — the Globe is using the work of the New York Shakespeare Exchange, which produces the Sonnet Project. The result of a successful Kickstarter campaign, the project consists of videos of all of Shakespeare’s sonnets set in 154 different locations around New York performed by 154 different actors. Some but not all of the actors of recognizable: Paige Davis of early-aughts TLC home improvement fame, Lynn Cohen, who played Magda in “Sex and the City,” and Michael Urie from “Ugly Betty.”

Also free are extensive interviews with Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Fiona Shaw, James Earl Jones, Shakespeare expert Harold Bloom and others.

“The Globe is always looking for bold new ways to take Shakespeare out into the world and share his astonishing plays with as many people as possible,” the Globe’s artistic director, Dominic Dromgoole, told the Guardian. “Globe Player will allow us to reach brand new audiences and to make access to our productions simple and seamless for anyone with the internet.”


h/t The Verge