When Alasdair Middleton stumbled across Gismonde of Salerne in Love (with Julia Righton, right), he discovered that there were five authors. Happily for him, there are no royalties to worry about as the play was written in 1567 by five eminent lawyers.
'It hasn't been seen for 400 years, since its one performance for Elizabeth I, but this isn't merely a digging-up exercise. The idea of doing plays out of historical curiosity is a little sick-making. It's the first play with Romantic love treated as a tragic subject.'
Elizabethan audiences had to wait another 30-odd years for the next one, Romeo and Juliet, but the plot is more like Webster than Shakespeare: love, incest and bleeding hearts, written in a year in which the plague was running riot.
'It feels like new writing because nobody knows anything about it, yet the poetry is incredibly rich. The actors feel they are creating their roles. Formally, it's really surprising, and it acts even better than it reads.' Always a good sign.
'Gismonde of Salerne in Love' previews at BAC from Tuesday (071-223 2223)Reuse content