The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0375 Thursday, 23 September 2010
From: Ted Nellen <
Date: September 11, 2010 12:35:57 PM EDT
Subject: Double Falsehood
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
I had one of those rare pleasures in life. I saw a new Shakespeare play tonight, Double Falsehood
or The Distrest Lovers. The production was played at the Union Theater on Union Street in
Southwark, about a three minute walk from The Globe.
The theater is under a trestle and we know that because we could hear, not feel, the trains pass by
above. Not a distraction like the planes and other airborne machines above The Globe. The Union
Theater is a black box that holds about 55 people. 30 in three rows of ten on the far side of the
stage and five rows of five on the near side. To the right is backstage behind a curtain. The
narrowness of the near audience is to allow the players two more ways of entering the stage area
which is probably 20 feet by 15 feet, in addition to the one directly from the black curtain.
Tonight was the opening performance and it started on time, half seven. The performance was
supported by the Arden Shakespeare, though I read the Theobold version from Google books. I
had read the play twice in the past month, so as to become familiar with it. The performance was
true to the text and in 18th Century costume. The cast was a mix of old hands on stage and
newbies. One needed a program to know the difference. It was well played by all.
I was particularly struck by the interchange of the two fathers, Don Bernard and Camillo, in the
First Act about Honor and Time. The use of Honor was visited by Falstaff the other night as a foil to
Hector's magnificent account of Honor in Troilus and Cessida. Camillo's account is closer to
Hector's. In addition we were treated by a monosyllabic and double syllabic use of the word Time
from these two men. It reminded me of John Barton's discussion of how Time is used by
Shakespeare and how is should be pronounced both ways depending upon the circumstance. The
production added something, at least in my Theobold version. Since I haven't seen the Arden issue,
I can't be sure it is an addition. Two gentlemen dressed as horses, appropriately enough, since The
Duke is concerned with his younger son's sudden interest in horses, parade out between some
scenes, an older man, perhaps, Time, as in Winter's Tale perhaps portending to be Shakespeare
and a younger man a foil, a jack, a very nave. The older man would recite certain famous lines from
other plays while the younger would finish them. He began with "All the world's a stage." The
quoted lines were apt to the play we were watching. Now its purpose is unknown, except to
provide some mild entertainment at particularly difficult times in the play to allow the players
time to change from one costume to another. It was an entertaining interjection and did nothing to
injure the performance, only to enhance it.
The costuming was well done, which begs the question why not the makeup. The players were
plain, themselves. It was difficult to believe that Camillo was going to die soon as he railed because
he was a large, healthy Rugby kind of man who wasn't dying too soon unless he was hit by a truck
because he would destroy any car that hit him. Makeup would have helped the two fathers to help
us, in spite of the concept of suspending disbelief. Couldn't be done just as it was hard to believe he
was the father of a woman his own age. He was one of the strongest players on stage and delivered
his lines smartly. I also found Henriquez, the younger son of the Duke to be a perfect cad and an
evilly wayward boy.
The play has such obvious references to other Shakespeare works, like the opening to King Lear.
The disguise and running to the woods as in As You Like It. The comedy in the woods like
Midsummer Nights Dream. I felt honored to see such a fine performance by this little troupe and
hope it all the success. I wonder why it is only playing for 4 nights.
The last time I was so blessed to see a premier performance of a new Shakespeare play was Two
Noble Kinsman in Stratford in 1986. Bravo to the cast and to the director Barrie Addenbrooke who
did admirably, kept it true, and had the pleasure of being the first to direct this new play since
From Duncan Lynskey
I was also at the Double Falsehood premiere last night. The two men with the hobby horses were
strictly speaking the characters Lopez and Fabian, but the production took their lines and mixed
them up with random Shakespeare quotes and presented them as Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.
This is a nod to the origins of the story behind Double Falsehood in the original
Shakespeare/Fletcher play "Cardenio" which is taken from Cervantes' "Don Quixote".
You might not have realised but the editor of the Arden Edition, Brean Hammond was there that
night in the centre of the front row facing the entrance door, as was the general editor of the Arden
Shakespeare Richard Proudfoot, as well as the mayor of Southwark and the theatre director Janet
He added this in a second communication and in response to my query about Double
Falsehood being performed at the Swan when it reopens.
As for the Swan reopening, Greg Doran of the RSC has been working on reconstructing Cardenio
by filling in scenes assumed to be missing from Double Falsehood. This has been done before, but
he plans to work with a Spanish writer so that it will be in English and Spanish. The RSC has also
workshopped this at the University of Michigan:
I spoke to someone from the University of Warwick who has been working on related matters
with Greg Doran and he said that The Two Noble Kinsmen might also be part of the Swan
In fact, Brean Hammond's Double Falsehood is so hot off the press that he discusses the
forthcoming RSC Cardenio on page 131 of the book. As you haven't got it with you in Scotland I'll
include the relevant paragraph below:
"As I write this, I am learning from the Shakespearean scholar Jonathan Bate and Gregory Doran,
Chief Associate Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, about plans to workshop a
reconstruction of Cardenio in association with the Almagro Festival. It is hoped that this will be an
Anglo-Spanish collaboration and will be a mix of Cervantes, Shelton and Theobold under the title
of Cardenio... [footnote] 'It will be a mix of Theobald, Shelton and Cervantes, and will definitely
include the Johnson songs (one of Michael Wood's best bits of work, that). It'll be worked up with
Spanish as well as British actors, in an attempt to re-Spanishize the feel of Shelton and Theobald'
(Gregory Doran, private communication, 23 July 2007)"
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