by James Shirley
“All great men know, the soul of life is fame.”
The state of Navarre is in crisis. An unscrupulous Cardinal has the ear of the King and is hungry for power. The Duchess Rosaura longs to marry the Count D’Alvarez, but the Cardinal wants her for his brutish nephew. To tighten his grip on the Kingdom, the ruthless Cardinal will stop at nothing to secure the marriage. But in the Duchess it seems he has finally met his match…
Hailed as James Shirley’s tragic masterpiece, The Cardinal (1641) was one of the last plays staged in England before Oliver Cromwell’s ban on theatre. With remarkably lucid and fast-paced dialogue, it is the captivating story of a religious monster and his relentless pursuit of power.
Starring Stephen Boxer (King Lear, National Theatre) and Natalie Simpson (King Lear, Hamlet and Cymbeline, Royal Shakespeare Company), directed by Justin Audibert (Snow in Midsummer and The Jew of Malta, Royal Shakespeare Company) and produced by Troupe (After October, Flowering Cherry and The White Carnation, Finborough Theatre).
Reviews for The Cardinal at Southwark Playhouse:
★★★★ ‘Riveting tale of corruption retrieved from the vaults of history… this clean, concise and thoroughly tense production from director Justin Audibert.’ Claire Allfree, The Telegraph CRITICS’ CHOICE
★★★★ ‘A forgotten gem… a vigorous production that would look at home in Stratford-on-Avon’s Swan theatre.’ Michael Billington, The Guardian
★★★★ ‘Stephen Boxer sparkles with charm and malice in this bloody tragedy… an overlooked treasure rewards audiences with revenge, blood, and humour.’ Joe Vesey-Byrne, The Independent
★★★★ ‘Natalie Simpson squeezes every drop of mischief, passion and spirit from this determined woman.’ Claire Allfree, The Telegraph CRITICS’ CHOICE
★★★★ ‘Visually as well as textually, the production proves that in the right hands, neglected texts can find renewed life.’ Will Rathbone, The Arts Desk
Post Show Talk
Tuesday 2nd May 10pm
The Cardinal’s author James Shirley (1596-1666) was the last of the great Elizabethan dramatists linking the Golden Age with the period of the Restoration and the most prolific and highly regarded dramatist during the reign of King Charles I. The Cardinal was one of the last plays staged before Oliver Cromwell’s ban on theatre in 1642. At our post-show Q&A, Terri Paddock (@TerriPaddock), founder of MyTheatreMates, StageFaves and WhatsOnStage, talks to director Justin Audibert, stars Stephen Boxer and Natalie Simpson and members of the Troupe company about the historical context of Shirley and his tragic masterpiece and how the play resonates today.