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Union Revives 'Lost' Shakespeare, Opens 21 Jan

The Union Theatre will tomorrow night (18 January 2011) begin previews of a Double Falsehood, a "lost Shakespeare" which was premiered in Drury Lane in 1727 and has dodged obscurity and divided academics, being included in Methuen's Arden Complete Works of Shakespeare for the first time last year.

Produced by MokitaGrit Productions and directed by Phil Willmott, the play, which opens on 21 January for a four-week run until 12 February 2011, was originally unearthed in 1727 by impresario Lewis Theobald. He claimed, 150 years after it was written, the piece was based on a lost play by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher of 1613. The production enjoyed several popular revivals at the time despite critics questioning its authenticity.

Ellie Collyer-Bristow who is producing what she believes to be the first professional revival since the piece was last shown "somewhere in Covent Garden" in 1792, said MokitaGrit were moved to stage the revival after the play was included in Methuen's scholarly collection of the Bard's cannon. The play's inclusion will not, however, stifle debate over whether Shakespeare wrote enough of the play to justify its inclusion or if it is simply an audacious 18th Century fake.

Whether written by the Bard or not, Double Falsehood is described in marketing material as a "fast moving tale of young love, treachery and reconciliation" all of which appears likely to please fans of Restoration-era drama.

Based on a long-lost work titled Cardenio, which was itself is thought to be based on Cervantes' Don Quixote, Double Falsehood sees a Duke’s youngest son rape a village girl and sets out to steal his friend’s bride. The aftermath of these traumatic events drives the four into the wilderness and the Duke’s eldest son must find a way of reconciling everyone and reuniting the missing young people with their squabbling parents.

The production's director Phil Willmott recently helmed the Union's Once Upon a Time at the Adelphi. In addition to an annual season of family shows and classical revivals at the Scoop outdoor amphitheatre on the South Bank, his past Shakespeare productions include Much Ado About Nothing at Liverpool Playhouse, Measure for Measure at the Riverside Studios, A Winters Tale at the Courtyard Theatre, Henry VIII at the Bridewell and Titus Andronicus at BAC.

Speaking about the production, Simon Callow, who opens as Toby Belch in Peter Hall's production of Twelfth Night at the NT Cottesloe on 18 January (previews from 11 January), said he did not think the production was as strong as King Lear or Macbeth but that the "lost" Shakespeare was "a very good, well-crafted, strongly-written today play but it is not one of the masterpieces of human literature."

The cast for the play's revival have been announced as Adam Redmore, Emily Plumtree, Gabriel Vick, Jessie Lilley, Richard Franklin, Richard Morse, Sam Hoare, Stephen Boswell, Su Douglas and William Reay.

Following Double Falsehood at the Union, the Royal Shakespeare Company will produce Cardenio, the work's 1613 title, which will reopen the Swan Theatre on 27 April (previews from 14 April) and run until 6 October 2011.


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