A long-lost Shakespeare play or a false claim on the Bard’s name?
This tale of love and deceit was supposedly lost for more than 100 years before being re-discovered in 1727, and then abandoned again for three centuries.
Just last year it was re-admitted to the canon by Shakespeare experts at Arden although doubts still remain as to its authenticity, including mine; this was a better performance than a play.
Central to the action, and at turns convincingly coquettish and concerned, was Eleanor Hicks as Leonora, a dutiful daughter torn between her love for suitor Julio (a plaintive Josh Mathieson) and the lecherous lord Henriquez (Max Rudd).
Also in the picture was the wronged Violante, played with a mix of frailty and righteousness by Jo Sessions, and the Duke’s more noble son Roderick (Adrian Sinden).
John Mangan and David Newham added some solid comedic grounding as the quarrelling fathers of the two would-be grooms.
The production was deliberately simple, a nod to the Norwich Players’ performances of the early 20th century and their considerable feat of performing all of Shakespeare’s plays at the Maddermarket under the direction of Nugent Monck.
The play is an interesting oddity but it just doesn’t feel like Shakespeare: the poetry never really lifts and the plot feels more like a pastiche than the genuine article.
That the cast does so well with it is a testament to their skill, and an achievement I’m sure their forbears would appreciate.