Patrick Carnegy

Double toil and trouble

‘Shakespeare’s Lost Play Re-imagined’, thus Gregory Doran’s subtitle to Cardenio. The play appears to have been lost in the Globe fire of 1613, but why should the RSC’s chief associate director have wanted to ‘re-imagine’ and stage it as the inaugural production in the refurbished Swan?

‘Shakespeare’s Lost Play Re-imagined’, thus Gregory Doran’s subtitle to Cardenio. The play appears to have been lost in the Globe fire of 1613, but why should the RSC’s chief associate director have wanted to ‘re-imagine’ and stage it as the inaugural production in the refurbished Swan?

‘Shakespeare’s Lost Play Re-imagined’, thus Gregory Doran’s subtitle to Cardenio. The play appears to have been lost in the Globe fire of 1613, but why should the RSC’s chief associate director have wanted to ‘re-imagine’ and stage it as the inaugural production in the refurbished Swan? There was nothing to go on other than a dubious trail leading back from a 1727 effort by one Lewis Theobald (Double Falsehood) through an MS ‘conceivably’ adapted by Sir William Davenant (who gave himself out as Shakespeare’s ‘lost’ son) from a play by Fletcher and Shakespeare, performed at Court in 1612/13, and which ‘may’ have been based on an episode in Don Quixote. This is already too much for most of us to take in. Literary detective work is fun, but its publication upon a prominent Stratford stage another matter.

For nearly three hours you were struggling to keep up with a story in which Cardenio, a Hugh Grant lookalike (Oliver Rix), loses his girl (Lucy Briggs-Owen) to his aristocratic best friend (Alex Hassell). This latter Don Juan has also been fooling around with a gullible young farmer’s daughter, Dorotea (Pippa Nixon).

After episodes of madness in the mountains and an abduction from the inevitable Spanish convent, Hugh Grant regains his sanity and his girl while the repentant villain has to honour his vows to Dorotea. There is, of course, sillier stuff upon the stage but it can only keep you awake with the help of a sparkling text.

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