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March 2004
Cardenio - The Burton Taylor Theatre
The Crucible
Issues of ambition, obsession, adultery, necrophilia, and revenge are explored.


Cardenio
by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher

The Burton Taylor Theatre

March 2-6, 2004

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By Alison Ireland

The small black interior of the BT became a chamber of dark deeds for last night's production of Cardenio.

A revenge tragedy, this bloody drama was apparently a collaboration between Shakespeare and Fletcher, though its history is shrouded in mystery: the year of the first performance, 1613, saw The Globe Theatre destroyed by fire and the play has since been hidden in obscurity until it was woken by American Charles Hamilton in 1990.

From this performance it was difficult to tell whether Cardenio has been 'resting' or whether it really was worth exhuming - in short, it was hard to tell how good a play it really is.

Cardenio covers the full gamut of ungodly deeds: ambition, obsession, adultery, necrophilia, and revenge, but as it is by definition that strange hybrid known as a tragicomedy there was light relief as well.

While some of the individual performances were excellent (Daisy Fox as The Lady, Melanie Frost as Leonella), the overall effect was a little confused. This was partly due to female actors playing all but one of the male parts, and partly down to the number of parts played by each actor (two or more).

But the main problem seemed to be an uncertainty of how to deal with a script fluctuating rapidly between moods. The comedic banter and adulterous chat was very good, performed in an almost knockabout music hall style. However, when the tragic deaths, dichotomies and apparitions were dealt with in a similar style, punctuated by the odd blood-curdling scream, the audience were left in something of a quandary as to how to react.

Govianus, arguably the most wronged character in the play, has good stage presence but a surprising robustness in the face of adversity; the suicide of his lover, a visitation from her apparition, and finally the exhumation of her body by another man leave him little more than slightly vexed.

All in all, this is a good chance to see a little-performed play, providing an intriguing introduction into the exciting world of revenge tragedy.

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