SHAKESPEARE’S LOST PLAY: IN SEARCH OF CARDENIO
ISBN: 9 781848 422087
Review: Rod Dungate 11 01 12
Magical mystery tour.
For many years I have maintained ‘You should always judge a book by it’s cover.’ For Gregory Doran’s book I have an alternative variation of the old proverb – ‘You should never judge a book by it’s title’. For some, SHAKESPEARE’S LOST PLAY, IN SEARCH OF CARDENIO may seem a dry offer; beware! Reading this book is like entering a marvellous emporium – the goods on show have a feeling of impetuous disorder, though too, while from widely diverse sources, places and ages, they feel like they belong together. As you saunter through this souk, some objects amuse, others surprise, some intrigue, some take a lot of your time and attention. As you exit, you are filled with delighted satisfaction.
Oh dear, I’ve extended this metaphor far longer than I ought – but no going back.
Doran’s book is like this though. Clearly there is a spine; there is considerable research underpinning the creating of Doran’s CARDENIO script, there’s the creation of the script itself, and there’s its rehearsal, performance, and response.
This short list turns out to incorporate a wide range of information. So we learn about the monarchs across 16th and 17th Century Europe, their courts, and their relationships. We learn about ordinary people (historical and present day) in the UK and Spain in particular. Doran tells us too of the politics and practicalities of mounting a production at Stratford.
But, as with any good theatre script, the delight is in the detail. One of the great things about plays is that we learn a lot of intriguing things about societies that we may not learn from history books. So too in Doran’s tale.
There’s a report that the only person injured (nearly) in the Globe’s fire of 1613 was a chap whose breeches caught alight, but were fortuitously put out with a bottle of beer – a contemporary urban myth I bet yer! There’s the story of John Downes, who, at a command performance, dried so completely that he went into stage-management. Did you know that in Spain they have a special room to let monarchs’ corpses rot before they’re entombed? – It’s all here. And a report of the first modern pantomime in 1723. And the lovely account of how Oliver Rix came to be cast as Cardenio – read this all Drama Students.
In Doran’s mini-chapters, this is all endlessly entertaining and informative.
In his opening, the writer says he is no scholar. In this age of self definition who am I to argue? But he’s certainly erudite; and perhaps his lack of scholarliness has enabled him to avoid the stuffiness of much academic writing.
Here’s a link to the book on Amazon