The History of Cardenio
Richmond Shakespeare Society at the Mary Wallace Theatre, March 18 2017
Shakespeare and Cervantes both died on April 23 1616, and Borges was not the only other writer to fantasize that the dramatist and novelist were one and the same person… So, the scholar Gary Taylor has had the madcap conceit of reuniting the surviving bits of Shakespeare’s lost play Cardenio with Cervantes’s tale of Don Quixote, from which its plot is lifted. Putting the demented Knight of the Doleful Countenance into the play, as an academic driven bonkers by his theories, makes complete sense of its love-mad hero, and highlights the similarities with the stories of Falstaff, Hotspur, Hamlet and King Lear. In the manic new production by the Richmond Shakespeare Society, directed by Gerald Baker, this beguiling flight of fancy becomes a truly Quixotic extravaganza, where the performers are themselves so touched by their lunatic adventures that Cardenio can be indulged in his frenzy, the Don can be forgiven his delusion, and even Taylor’s scholarly hallucination can be humoured.
Sir Peter Hall Professor of Shakespeare Studies