Review: Double Falsehood

Claimed ‘lost Shakespeare’ Double Falsehood, currently on offer at Southwark’s Union Theatre, is a story unfamiliar with our modern sensibilities; servant girl Violante, innocently raped, pursues her attacker Henrique for marriage to clear her disgrace.  Henrique meanwhile attempts to steal away his friend Julio’s fiancée Leonora, Julio becoming mad over the loss of his love.  The idea of restoring honour and with such determination seems lost within the world we know, though the deep psychology in this play makes this and every journey understandable.

With much debate, Double Falsehood was recently added into Arden’s Shakespeare Complete Works having deemed there was enough evidence in the text.  It has not been staged since 1727 but director Phil Willmott talks of his keenness to “stand it on its feet” so that it may be debated in a real form and presented for its merits.  But is it Shakespeare or not? The plot reeks of the Bard with its themes of revenge, parenthood and women disguised as men, but the structure not so and the poetry, well, isn’t there.  Even so, perhaps it’s the strength of the production here, but its a well weaved piece of writing that makes for a terrifically good piece of theatre.

Willmott’s production is carefully simplistic and cogent, though we are assured we are presented an uncluttered, as-published play.  The design is admirably satisfying without a sniff at pretension and the Union’s intimate space is used very well, probably the best I’ve seen.  The cast are strong with particularly enjoyable performances from Adam Redmore as Henrique and Jessie Lilley as Violante, with the excellent use of a Liverpudlian accent.

A thoroughly captivating evening of theatre: traditional, yet suitable for a modern audience, without the distraction of some contemporary hashing. Hats off to Phil Willmott.

Runs until 12th February 2011 at the Union Theatre, Southwark.

Copyright © theatreJunki 2011.

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