by guest critic Nastazja Somers
A Shakespeare expert, friend of mine always says, “I love Shakespeare but I hate watching it, most of the time it bores me”. And isn’t it the truth? I get to see a lot of the Bard’s plays and most of the time I leave theatres feeling uninspired and craving a surprise. I yearn for Shakespeare productions that will move audiences whilst placing them in a centre a collective experience.
Within 50 years of Shakespeare’s death, playwriting was changing quickly. Less flowery language and more powerful female characters are prominent in James Shirley’s rarely-staged The Cardinal, written in 1641. The plot is more streamlined, but some of the outdoor playhouse performance conventions linger along with the grandness of the king’s court. The story proudly flaunts influence from earlier revenge tragedies and is no less bloody, but easier to follow than some of those on stage a few decades or so earlier. In Southwark Playhouse’s smaller space with historical costumes, Justin Audibert’s production evokes the intimate atmosphere of indoor playhouses that were beginning to take over towards the end of Shakespeare’s career.