Elizabethan-Style Productions

Hugh Richmond

Readers of previous plaintive entries in this blog may be interested in the opening of this review of Southwark Playbox’s production of Shirley’ The Cardinal, by Peter Malin, cited below:

The Cardinal by James Shirley, dir. Justin Audibert for Troupe @ Southwark Playhouse, 2017

May 18, 2017 03:40 pm | Peter Malin

Conventionally-staged productions of early modern plays, in period costume, have made something of a comeback this year. First we had the opening two productions of the RSC’s Roman season, and now this staging of Shirley’s 1641 tragedy in the claustrophobic black box of Southwark Playhouse’s studio space, The Little (the clue’s in the name). Such presentational conservatism is, to this reviewer at least, something of a relief after having seen so many of my favourite plays rendered largely incomprehensible in radical productions more concerned with the director’s vision than with fidelity to the text or respect for the audience. Among such productions, I shudder to recall Melly Still’s Cymbeline; or Maria Aberg’s White Devil (not Shakespeare’s; or Webster’s, you may note), both at the RSC. There is, however, a danger in staging the plays ‘straight’: the result can be bland, anodyne museum-pieces that preserve them in aspic.

Except where otherwise specified, all written commentary is © 2016, Hugh Macrae Richmond