THE CARDINAL – Southwark Playhouse

In London theatre, Native, Opinion, Plays, Reviews, Special Events, Ticket recommendations by Ian FosterLeave a Comment

“A poet’s art is to lead on your thoughts through subtle paths and workings of a plot. I will say nothing positive; you may think what you please…”

It’s not too often that I open a review with mention of the sound design, but Max Pappenheim‘s work in The Little at the Southwark Playhouse is undoubtedly worthy of the accolade. In this intimate auditorium on the architecturally clean lines of Anna Reid’s set, there’s an extraordinary sense of being in vaulted palace chambers and cathedrals as echoes and reverberations amplify our imaginations perfectly.

Post-show Q&A

See The Cardinal on Tuesday 2 May 2017 & join My Theatre Mates' co-founder Terri Paddock for a post-show Q&A with the director & cast.

It’s the kind of creative invention that those familiar with director Justin Audibert have come to expect, and it is thrilling to see it maintained whether working in the vast Royal Shakespeare Theatre where his recent Snow in Midsummer was excellent, or on this much smaller scale where it is a delight to see someone really understanding how to play to all sides of a thrust stage. There’s also a fascinating choice of material here in this revival of James Shirley’s The Cardinal, a 1641 play whose claim to fame is being one of the last to be performed before Oliver Cromwell pulled the plug on show-business.

Set in the unsettled kingdom of Navarre, The Cardinal emerges as a revenge tragedy and Audibert’s clear-sighted direction ensures that the intricacies of the plotting is lucid and consistently compelling. The Duchess Rosaura wants to marry the Count D’Alvarez, but the Machiavellian Cardinal wants her for his nephew Columbo – their battle of wills sweeps up many in the court around them with spectacularly bloody results.

Stephen Boxer‘s carmine-robed Cardinal is charismatically malevolent as many a good villain and Natalie Simpson‘s Duchess is a marvellously determined agent of chaos in her own way, each marshalling allies to their side to scheme, whether Phil Cheadle‘s righteous Hernando or Timothy Speyer’s wily Antonio.

Ian Foster on Twitter
Ian Foster
Since 2003, Ian Foster has been writing reviews of plays, sometimes with a critical element, on his blog Ought to Be Clowns, which has been listed as one of the UK's Top Ten Theatre Blogs by Lastminute.com, Vuelio and Superbreak. He averages more than 350+ shows a year. He says: "Call me a reviewer, a critic or a blogger, and you will apparently put someone or other's nose out of joint! So take it or leave it, essentially this is my theatrical diary, recording everything I go to see at the theatre in London and beyond, and venturing a little into the worlds of music and film/TV where theatrical connections can be made."
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Ian Foster on Twitter
Ian Foster
Since 2003, Ian Foster has been writing reviews of plays, sometimes with a critical element, on his blog Ought to Be Clowns, which has been listed as one of the UK's Top Ten Theatre Blogs by Lastminute.com, Vuelio and Superbreak. He averages more than 350+ shows a year. He says: "Call me a reviewer, a critic or a blogger, and you will apparently put someone or other's nose out of joint! So take it or leave it, essentially this is my theatrical diary, recording everything I go to see at the theatre in London and beyond, and venturing a little into the worlds of music and film/TV where theatrical connections can be made."