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People to watch this month: Cole Jenkins, actor

Mar 1, 2016 Theatre

From the banks of London’s Thames River to a council car park in central Auckland: it’s been quite a trip for Shakespeare’s Globe theatre. The Greys Ave location may be incongruous, but that’s one of the few things that’s inauthentic about the Pop-up Globe, a near-exact replica of London’s second Globe theatre, built in 1614.


The Shakespeare performed here will be in true 17th-century style: close-up and in the round, the audience’s boos and cheers raining down from benches stacked high around the stage.

The all-Shakespeare programme at Pop-up Globe features major audience-pleasers Twelfth Night and Romeo and Juliet and a number of shorter, more experimental runs including an all-female Henry V; The Tempest, with Lisa Harrow as Prospero; and the return of Titus, director Ben Henson’s innovative and acclaimed staging of the bloody tragedy Titus Andronicus.

Jenkins is relishing the chance to play a sexually manipulative man-eater. “It’s definitely not the sort of role I’d normally get to play.”

This is the third time Henson’s post-apocalyptic Titus has been performed in Auckland, and the third in which 25-year-old Cole Jenkins has played the role of Tamora, Queen of the Goths. Jenkins is one of two members of the all-male cast playing female roles (the other is Eli Matthewson, who plays Titus Andronicus’s savagely abused daughter Lavinia) and he’s still relishing the chance to play a sexually manipulative man-eater. “It’s definitely not the sort of role I’d normally get to play.”

He may be playing a female part, but it’s not a drag performance, he says. “We’re not pretending that Eli and I are women. The idea is, we’re a gang of boys playing a game, and that game is, ‘Let’s play Titus Andronicus’. We just happen to get the female parts.”

From the first, the play was “so brutal and gruesome and interesting that all the boys in the cast fell in love with it” and now they have a chance to perform it in a whole new way. “Ben has been reminding us that the audience will be above and all around us and that we’ll have to direct our performance to different parts of the theatre, or some of the audience will miss out completely.

“But I don’t think it’ll be until we get into that space that we’ll realise exactly how big and high it is. Everyone is just excited to get in there and see what happens.”

Pop-up Globe 2016 Season, 38 Greys Ave, central city, February 19–April 17. Titus, March 13–20.

Main image: Garth Badger.


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