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

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen