'Lost' Shakespeare play in Otterton

PUBLISHED: 13:18 18 May 2009 | UPDATED: 10:59 10 June 2010

A RARE open-air performance of Cardenio, Shakespeare s lost play, will be performed at Otterton Mill next month.

A RARE open-air performance of Cardenio, Shakespeare's 'lost' play, will be performed at Otterton Mill next month.

To be performed by The Alternative Cambridge Theatre Company on Saturday June 20 to celebrate Midsummer, the origins of Cardenio are shrouded in mystery.

Written by Shakespeare and fellow writer John Fletcher in 1613 it tells the story of the lunatic lover and a heroine who dresses as a shepherd boy to follow her love into the mountains - familiar terrain in the tragic-comedies of Shakespeare's late plays.

There is evidence of the play's performances at Court but for some reason the play was not included in the first folio of Shakespeare's complete works that was published in 1623 after his death.

The play surfaced when a manuscript was given to the Shakespeare editor Lewis Theobald in the early eighteenth century by John Downes, a book-keeper and prompter for the Drury Lane Theatre.

Theobald adapted the play for the stage and it had a very successful run in the theatre in London.

It is probable that the manuscripts were lost in a theatre fire in the early nineteenth century, but luckily Theobald's adaptation, and the original source, Thomas Shelton's 1612 translation still exist.

This original re-working of the play by Bernard Richards is perhaps as close as we will ever get to the truth of this lost work - the performance is the first date in a new South West touring production of the play.

"We are delighted to be hosting such an exciting event at Otterton Mill" said Mill owner Caroline Spiller. "We established a tradition of open-air theatre at the Mill last Midsummer with a performance by a local amateur dramatic company. The evening was so well received that we decided to repeat the formula this year. When we were offered a performance of such a unique play, we jumped at the chance to stage it.


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