Posts Tagged ‘Double Falsehood’

I don’t think so. I blame the 17th century book binders who bound this with two other plays in a volume they then labelled ‘Shakespeare Volume I’. Here we are, over 400 years later, seeing the ‘modern world premiere of the disputed Shakespeare comedy’. Well, if he wrote it, I’ll eat my copy of The Complete Works. The other theory, that he acted in it, is more plausible.

The play is made up of two stories which don’t come together until the very end, and then only obliquely – William the Conqueror’s pursuit of a Swedish princess imprisoned in the Danish court and the pursuit of the lady of the title, a miller’s daughter, by three suitors in Britain. The structure, plotting and verse bear little resemblance to Shakespeare. It’s a frivolous romp with little depth.

Director Phil Willmott makes the best of it. The production values, particularly the costumes, are good and the performances by a  large cast of 17 (the same number as the audience on the night I went!) are fine. I liked the use of English folk music, though by the end it was a bit over-used.

The same team gave us another disputed Shakespeare, Double Falsehood, a while back at the same venue. That was more believable but still unlikely. One can’t help thinking that second time round it’s a bit cynical as without ‘the dispute’ it would probably remain unproduced or there would be even less in the audience.

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I saw this ‘lost’ Shakespeare play as Double Falsehood at the Union Theatre earlier in the year. This time it has been re-imagined by Gregory Doran with the resources of the RSC to help him. I still don’t know how much of a hand Shakespeare had in it, but I really enjoyed the play nonetheless.

I hadn’t realised that it was based on Cervantes. There’s an authenticity about the Spanish setting that’s created simply by Niki Turner’s costumes and Paul Englishby’s music. It has a passionate Andalusian feel and is staged with great pace.  Cardenio’s delay in obtaining his father’s approval to marry Luscinda means the Duke’s youngest son Fernando makes a move on her (but only after he’s slept with – raped? –  farmer’s daughter Dorotea). Thinking Luscinda has betrayed him, Cardenio disappears into the mountains for his King Lear moment. Fortunately, Dorotea searches for and finds him in order to pursue her claim against Fernando based on the fact that their sexual congress constitutes marriage and his marriage to Luscina is therefore invalid. It’s a good story and I’m now more disposed to believe Shakespeare was involved.

Oliver Rix makes an impressive professional debut as Cardenio. It’s easy to dislike Fernando as played oilily by an excellent Alex Hassell. Both Lucy Briggs-Owen and Pippa Nixon impress as the girls, as do a trio of dad’s – Nicholas Day and Christopher’s Ettridge and Godwin. The Swan is the perfect intimate space for this play; on this occasion with the bonus of fireworks and a superb coup de theatre involving a coffin!

Whether it is or it isn’t, it’s well worth seeing for what it is – a very good pay well staged and performed.

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