A few months ago, I wrote a disgruntled blog post about the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse winter 2015/16 season. My problem was that the Globe abandoned their commitment towards the wider corpus of Renaissance drama to stage a succession of Shakespeare shows. I was particularly irritated by the suggestion that the entire enterprise of staging non-Shakespearean Renaissance plays was merely an ‘experiment’. It’s not the end of the world, of course, but a bit of a shame, even given the 2016 anniversary. It was with a degree of trepidation, then, that I awaited news of the RSC’s 2016 Summer Season. Would they go all out Shakespeare too? Thankfully, the answer is no. In amongst the standard Shakespeare staples – their A Midsummer Night’s Dream sounds interesting; Hamlet is being done, again – is a Cymbeline (which may be contrasted with the Globe’s Sam Wanamaker production later this year) and, best of all, some more Marlowe and Jonson. Even if these shows are in the Swan, rather than the main house, it’s great to see them played alongside Shakespeare, rather than in some weird vacuum.
Maria Aberg, who directed a fine King John and what was, for my money, a hit and miss The White Devil at the Swan in 2012 and 2014, will direct Doctor Faustus. Polly Findlay, whose 2014 Arden of Faversham I rather liked, directs Jonson’s The Alchemist. The RSC’s Volpone was excellent, so if they can do anything like that again, I’ll be happy. In amidst the Shakespeare celebrations we shouldn’t forget the 400th anniversary of the Ben Jonson Folio and I hope there’ll be more Jonson to see in the next year. The burning question, though, is surely: will anyone be celebrating the 400th anniversary of Francis Beaumont’s death? After the Globe’s excellent Knight of the Burning Pestle will someone dare having a go at some more Beaumont?