RSC to put on forgotten play by Shakespeare contemporary John Ford

Ford is most famous for Tis Pity She’s a Whore

Arts correspondent

A little-known Caroline-era play is to be staged for the first time in almost four centuries; the winner of a competition between academics to resurrect an obscure work at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s theatre.

Love’s Sacrifice, a revenge tragedy by 'Tis Pity She’s a Whore playwright John Ford, is to get a much wider audience than any time since it was written after it opens at the RSC’s Swan Theatre in April.

Gregory Doran, artistic director of the RSC, said: “I’ve fought against a prejudice that if plays are 400 years old and haven’t been done, they aren’t any good.

“Sometimes that is the case, but quite often they’re just not done because they’re not done. Some have fallen between the cracks.”

Ford’s work, published in 1633 during the reign of Charles I and hardly performed since, was chosen out of 16 works proposed by four academics for the theatre’s Scholars Pitch programme.

Mr Doran said he often received letters from academics asking for obscure work by Shakespeare’s contemporaries to be considered for production at the RSC.

“There are perhaps 600 plays surviving from Shakespeare’s lifetime and we do a fraction of them. By law of averages some of them must be good,” he said.

“So I turned the table on four academics and said: ‘Give me the four plays that you really think will work on the Swan stage. They had to be genuine discovery plays and schedulable.”

The academics included Martin Wiggins of the Shakespeare Institute and Martin White, professor of theatre at the University of Bristol, who Mr Doran said “is always badgering me about plays”.

The group was rounded out by Eleanor Lowe, senior lecturer in drama at Oxford Brookes University, and Tom Rutter at the University of Sheffield.

The RSC's artistic director wanted plays that would do well at the box office, with characters that actors would want to play and audiences would want to see. “It gave them a totally different perspective on the plays,” he said.

The scholars worked with actors and theatre directors for a week in Stratford to whittle the selection from four each to just one. That shortlist of four was then pitched to the company who voted “X Factor-style,” Doran said.

“We had a bit of a competition. There were 16 very interesting plays, all of which were worth a read. Ram Alley was close up there; Ben Jonson’s The Magnetic Lady was right at the bottom.”

He admitted that there “tends to be this distrust between academia and the theatre” adding: “It’s important to take the time and effort and engage with the academic community to see what we might be missing.”

Love’s Sacrifice, one of three of Ford’s surviving tragedies, won the highest percentage of the vote. The story has echoes of Othello, according to Doran, and is believed to be based on the true story of musician Carlo Gesualdo, who murdered his wife and her lover in the 16th century.

The RSC’s Summer season will also include a production of Othello, starring Hugh Quarshie, as well as Lucian Msamati, a black actor, playing Iago, which has never been done before at the RSC. Other productions include Death of a Salesman with Antony Sher and The Merchant of Venice.

The shortlisted works

The Cardinal by James Shirley

The play, first licensed in 1641, follows the cardinal who arranges a marriage between his nephew and a duchess. Tragic results when she tries to get out of the contract.

The Insatiate Countess by John Marston

The 1613 tragedy about a lustful countess who is executed for adultery is believed to be a collaboration between Marston and writers William Barkstead and Lewis Machin.

Love’s Sacrifice by John Ford

The Scholars Pitch winning entry was first published in 1633 and is supposedly based on the true story of composer Carlo Gesualdo who murdered his wife and her lover.   

Ram Alley by Lording Barry

The one comedy to make the shortlist, Ram Alley written in blank verse in1608 was by Barry, a fishmonger’s son from London.

Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power