CARDENIO: A lost Shakespeare play?
RSC, The Swan, Stratford Upon Avon
Runs: 2h 55. One interval. In rep to 6th October
Review: Rod Dungate, 28 April 2011
Unique showing of theatrical history mystery
There once was a play called THE DOUBLE FALSHOOD by Lewis Theobald, which may have been adapted from a play in possibly the handwriting of John Downes by Sir William Davenant, which may have been an adaptation of THE HISTORY OF CARDENIO by Fletcher and Shakespeare. Of course none of these may have been based on any of the others and the handwriting may have been A N Other’s.
However, with great aplomb, Gregory Doran has taken all this, added some more bits, and come up with Cardenio, which he directs in the Swan. So is this a lost Shakespeare play? Not being an expert, myself, but a mere punter, I’d say it doesn’t feel like Shakespeare; the characters feel too thin and the dialogue too declamatory. But who cares?
Doran has created an intriguing production with sudden, surprising, psychological insights and occasional moments of sunny humour. It’s a unique chance to see a fascinating hybrid play and some fine acting.
In a nutshell the story is built around a Duke and a few Dons, a good son and a very bad son, and someone’s naïve son (that’s Cardenio who’s also a very good son). And two virtuous women who are of course wronged – they have to be or there wouldn’t be a play.
Oliver Rix is a lovely Cardenio, all innocence and clean living, until he runs away to the mountains and gets very dirty and ragged (and mad). Simeon Moore is deliciously pompous as the good son and Alex Hassell chucklingly wicked as the bad son – never let an opportunity to be bad go to waste. Both the women are fit and feisty, dealing with the cheesiest plot moments with great style (Lucy Briggs-Owen as Luscinda and Pippa Nixon as Dorotea.) And with an unexpected facility with lightening humour in unlikely places, Christopher Goodwin as Cardenio’s father, Don Camillo, is not to be missed.
The evening is not always easy going; but the great going easily outweighs the harder going.
[Credits will follow.]