In March 2014, The Dolphin’s Back, a newly formed theatre group dedicated to the revitalization of forgotten plays staged a highly successful production of Christopher Marlowe’s The Massacre at Paris at the Rose Theatre, Bankside. They justly received numerous positive reviews. This was partly because of the style with which they attacked the brilliant succession of violent scenes which constitute Marlowe’s staging of the titular massacre, but it’s also because, as Pete Kirwan rightly notes, the ensemble cast managed to maintain focus even after the initial massacre scenes. The scenes involving the favourites of King Henri III call to mind Marlowe’s earlier Edward II, but James Askill, as the French King, ensured his character did not become merely some second-rate Edward. This involves the use of a toilet…. I won’t spoil it any further though, as if you want to see this wonderful production, you get a second chance: it’s being revived at the Rose on 7 October.
The revival of The Massacre at Paris is exciting enough, but, in fact, it’s the company’s newest production which looks set to gain the greatest attention. On 16 September, The Dolphin’s Back will stage John Lyly’s The Woman in the Moon, ingeniously described as an ‘extraordinary astrological sex comedy’ (as opposed to the merely ordinary astrological sex comedies we are so used to). Other commitments mean I am almost certain to miss this one (though maybe it, too, will get a revival) but I’ve confidence that the company will do justice to Lyly, whose Galatea was so brilliantly performed earlier in the year by Edward’s Boys. I leave you, by way of a taster, with a short quote from the synopsis of The Woman in the Moon written by Martin Wiggins in his excellent British Drama, 1533-1642: A Catalogue:
When the shepherds of Utopia protest that, unlike all other creatures, they have no mates, Nature produces one she made earlier: a female statue, which Concord animates by joining spirit with flesh, and to which Discord gives a tongue; Nature names her Pandora.
Go see it, if you can!