The small black interior of the BT became a chamber of dark deeds
for last night's production of Cardenio.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
in all, this is a good chance to see a little-performed play, providing
an intriguing introduction into the exciting world of revenge tragedy.