The project Read Not Dead was founded in 1995 with the intent to bring to light surviving plays produced between 1567 and 1642.
A wonderful opportunity to spend the Sunday afternoon in company of great plays and a stunning cast because, not everyone can get a script at 10 am in the morning and be ready to bring it on stage early in the same afternoon.
The current season, in addition, had a thrilling conclusion.
Given the enormous success, Thursday, May 29th, at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, 4 teams competed under the watchful and, given the size of the venue, very intimate eye of the audience.
At the end of the evening, the audience, was called to vote which of the 4 works staged that night (two scenes for each work) will be fully realeased on the stage the next October.
The Team Marston (Frances Marshall and Dr. Lucy Munro) chose to bring on stage two scenes from The Insatiate Countess.
A 1613 tragedy set in Italy between Venice and Pavia and based on the story of Bianca Maria, the Countess of Challant who was executed for adultery on 20 October 1526.
The second team on stage, Team Lily (James Wallace and Dr. Andy Kesson) chose the extraordinary Sapho and Phao which immediately won the favor of the audience, especially for the terrific interpretation of Cupid by Martin Hodgson (Doctor Who).
Sapho and Phao is an Elizabethan era stage play and one of Lyly’s earliest dramas with the distinction of having 9 parts written for women.
The play is set in Syracuse . Venus, on her way to Syracuse to humble the pride of Queen Sapho, endows a young ferryman named Phao with great beauty. When Sapho catches sight of Phao she instantly falls in love with him; and Phao in turn is love-struck with her. Through an accident with Cupid’s arrows, Venus herself falls in love with Phao. Cupid performs part of his mother’s will, in that he cures Sapho of her love of Phao; but then Cupid succumbs to the queen’s charms and…
The third team, Team Middleton (Jason Morell and Dr. Joe Lavagnigno) has staged the play Your Five Gallants, a Jacobean city – comedy.
The five gallants of the play’s title are frauds, poseurs, and con men (a pickpocket, pimp, pawnbroker, cheat, and whoremonger) who compete with the protagonist, Fitzgrave, for the affections of Katherine, a wealth orphan.
Last but not least, the Team Daborne (David Oakes, Dr. Emma Smith) with A Christian Turn’d Turk.
In the play, Ward converts to Islam in order to marry Voada, a beautiful Turkish woman with whom he has fallen in love. Ward’s conversion to Islam (portrayed in dumbshow) is contrasted with the repentance and pardon of Simon Dansiker, the other pirate captain in the play (also shown in dumbshow). Dansiker’s reform is complicated by the reluctance of the French merchants he’s robbed to accept him until he returns to Tunis to apprehend the renegade Jew, Benwash. The unrepentant Ward dies at the end of the play, though he delivers an anti-Muslim rant that conforms to the prejudices of the play’s original audience. The real Ward would die eleven years after the play was written.
The counting of votes was completed this afternoon (Monday, June 2nd) and, as thoroughly guessed already at the end of the evening by the comments of the audience; the victory went to the Team Daborne.
To make a difference, it was not the talent of the cast, as all four teams of actors were mind-blowing, nor the passion of the audience for Pirates of the Caribbean rather than the mess of a careless Cupid.
The big difference was made by the creativity and genius of an actor like David Oakes (this time without the candle light, distinctive signature of his previous Read not Dead plays).who has managed to give a distinctive touch not only to the play itself; but especially at the presentation of the same and, in particular in the three minutes he had to convince the audience to vote for his team.
Unlike the other three teams that talked about why the audience had to vote for them … well, Oakes left the word (or better) the action to the actors who, with a splendid performance mimicked have synthesized all the grandeur of the story.
Now he will have to bring it on stage on October 5th 2014…and will be a hard work but, for sure, another terrific success.
In the meantime, if you still have doubts about the brilliance of this young actor, you can just flush out on his YouTube channel the fabulous stories that he manages to invent with simple items like a tea bag or a toothbrush.
And, from the 2nd of July, you can be catch by his talent as an actor at the Noel Coward Theatre in the role of Marlowe in the new play Shakespeare in Love.
Picture by Phoebe Gardiner