Five Rarely Seen Plays Find Their Way to London's Gielgud Theatre

News   Five Rarely Seen Plays Find Their Way to London's Gielgud Theatre Thelma Holt and Bill Kenwright have brought this summer's hit season of five Jacobean plays to London — to the Gielgud Theatre.

The plays, listed below with brief plot outlines, were written by Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Rarely performed, they mainly date from the Jacobean period (1603-25), named after the reign of King James I, who succeeded Elizabeth I to the throne, and was the father of the ill-fated Charles I, whose loss of the Civil War had a particular impact on London theatre — the playhouses were all closed down by the Puritans.

The Malcontent
by John Marston (1575-1634)
A banished Duke disguises himself, lives in his old court and plays off his various enemies (including the man who usurped his throne) until he eventually restores himself to his rightful place. (1604)

The Island Princess
by John Fletcher (1579-1625)
An Indonesian princess has two suitors and an unpleasant neighbor to contend with. An exotic location adds to the interest in this rare play about a far-away land — a subject that Shakespeare also touched on in The Tempest. (1621)

The Roman Actor
by Philip Massinger (1583-1640)
The sadistic Emperor of Rome falls for a woman and makes her his wife, but she in turn becomes obsessed with the Emperor's favorite actor, leading to bloodshed and a palace revolution in this classic revenge tragedy. (1626) Edward III
by William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
A play only recently attributed to Shakespeare — though others co-wrote it — this is a prequel to the better-known history plays like Richard II and Henry V. Edward III was the King who founded the Knights of the Garter. (1596)

Eastward Ho!
by George Chapman (1559- 1634), Ben Jonson (1572-1637) and John Marston (1575-1634)
Written in competition with Dekker and Webster's Westward Ho!, this is a contemporary comedy about a London goldsmith trying to marry off his two daughters. (1605 approx)

This season at the Gielgud Theatre, which runs until Jan. 25, is the first time most of these plays have been seen in public performance in London for centuries, and therefore (quite apart from the fact that they are interesting, dramatic and often very funny) well worth supporting. —By Paul Webb