Jane Taylor, in association with the Gordon Institute for Performing and Creative Arts (GIPCA), presents the premiere of After Cardenio at the newly renovated Anatomy Theatre on the top floor of the Old Medical Building on Hiddingh campus, UCT. Previews are on 23 and 24 August, and the run is from 25 August – 2 September at 20:00.
It is 1650. England is in the grip of a bloody Civil War, and theological dispute rampages across the countryside. In this context of radical upheaval, the new sciences are emerging. It is the year in which the philosopher Descartes dies in Sweden. In Oxford, a young woman, Anne Greene, is hanged for killing her infant. Her body is prepared for dissection for an anatomy in the presence of several surgeons and scholars.
After Cardenio is a new work of experimental theatre, written and directed by Jane Taylor, based upon the true account of Anne Greene, as taken from the historical archive. It is a combination of sculptural puppetry, live performance, sound and visual art.
The Renaissance scholar Stephen Greenblatt, from Harvard University, has commissioned several theatre-makers/writers to make new works with ‘Cardenio’ as a hypothetical point of origin, in order to consider what Shakespeare may have reworked from Cervantes’ romantic hero. This work, After Cardenio arises from such an invitation by Greenblatt to Taylor. After Cardenio is written and directed by Taylor in collaboration with Aja Marneweck and the Paper Body Collective, sculptural puppet design and construction by Gavin Younge, with music composition and sound design by Julia Raynham. Video and visual elements are made by collaborating artist Penny Siopis It is presented in association with GIPCA.
The work is a meditation on the late works of William Shakespeare, whose play The History of Cardenio has disappeared with no extant copy of the original text. The so-called “missing Shakespeare play” was registered in 1653 (shortly after the episode with Anne Greene) by the publisher and bookseller, Humphrey Moseley, who declared that it was by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher, Shakespeare’s collaborator on several of his late works. Moseley’s credibility has been questioned, because of his commercial interest in the matter, but there is no question that a play titled The History of Cardenio was performed in London in 1613 by The King’s Men. Little is known about the play, except that it is presumed that the work is named after Cardenio, a character in Cervantes’ great novel, Don Quixote.
“After Cardenio is a tribute to the two giant figures, Shakespeare and Cervantes, who dominate the traditions of Western literature (both the theatre and the book),” said Taylor. “It explores the imaginative worlds of these writers, and their perennial themes of heroism, brutality, sexual infidelity, political intrigue, and the fragile beauty of hope. The play also considers the situation of the women who are at the centre of the work of these two writers,” she added.
Cervantes and Shakespeare, through a curious quirk of history, died on the same date, though not on the same day. Because Spain and England were on different calendars in 1616, Cervantes died some ten days before Shakespeare, but both men are recorded as having died on the same date, 23 April 1616. That extraordinary accident itself is memorialized in this new production.
Tickets for After Cardenio cost R80 and will be available on Computicket.