The Jacobean playhouses produced the finest line-up of playwrights the English stage has ever seen. These extraordinary contemporaries of Shakespeare – Jonson, Webster, Middleton, Fletcher and their peers – rivalled his successes and taught him a trick or two.
But on the modern stage Shakespeare’s overwhelming celebrity has largely overshadowed the brilliance and originality of his rivals’ achievements. Shakespeare’s Rivals will stage sequences from the most innovative plays, from city comedy to revenge tragedy and tragicomic romance. Performed in modern dress, the production will demonstrate the capacity of these plays to speak to us directly, and excitingly, today.
Directed by Michael Cordner and Ollie Jones, it is part of a continuing research-as-practice exploration of this astonishing repertoire at the University of York. This project has already generated five full-scale productions, performed, like this event, by casts of specially trained student actors. Earlier productions in the sequence can be viewed at earlymoderntheatre.co.uk, along with some of their work on the project with three Olivier Award-winning actors, Dame Penelope Wilton, Oliver Ford Davies and Henry Goodman.
About the directors
Michael Cordner is Ken Dixon Professor of Drama and one of the co-founders of the University of York’s Department of Theatre, Film and Television, where he was its first Head of Theatre. His main research and teaching interests lie in English drama 1580-1737, theatre, film and television comedy, and the development of the theatre in the UK in the second half of the 20th century until today.
All his current work relates to the interaction between scripts and performance and, therefore, seeks to explore performance traditions, historical circumstances, performer training, company identities, and reception circumstances, as well as the words committed to the page by individual dramatists. In his view, study of the masterpieces of 17th-century theatre is meaningless unless influenced by practical experience of the plays in rehearsal and performance. Hence, his productions of comedies by Middleton, Marston, Vanbrugh, Shirley, and Dryden, in the Department over the last few years.
Michael is currently acting as adviser on the Royal Shakespeare Company production of Vanbrugh's The Provoked Wife, which opens in Stratford-upon-Avon in May.
Dr Ollie Jones is a Lecturer in Theatre with the University of York’s Department of Theatre, Film and Television (TFTV). He is a theatre historian and director working primarily on early modern touring theatre, theatre architecture and performance. His work necessitates a holistic and truly interdisciplinary approach, combining methodologies from archaeological, historical, literary and theatrical academic traditions.
Ollie first came to the University of York to study Archaeology, after which he moved to the Centre for Medieval Studies, where he specialised in medieval drama and the Mystery Plays of York, Beverly and Chester. Since 2009 he has also been a Research Associate at Shakespeare’s Globe.