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Spanish Golden Age Season - Arcola Theatre

Frances McNanee as Cassandra in Punishment Without Revenge. Photo credit: Jane Hobson.

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

ARCOLA Theatre is presenting the Spanish Golden Age Season, a repertory season celebrating one of the most prolific periods in the history of Spanish theatre and art – from Thursday, January 9 to Saturday, March 15, 2014.

Brought to the stage in brand new translations, performed by a repertory company of 10 actors and directed by Mehmet Ergen and Laurence Boswell, Artistic Directors of Arcola Theatre and Theatre Royal Bath’s Ustinov Studio respectively, this exciting and innovative season promises to be the most audacious and ambitious ever staged at Arcola Theatre.

Mehmet Ergen said: “I am thrilled to be able to bring a festival of such scale and ambition to Arcola’s stage. The Spanish Golden Age was an incredibly creative and significant period in the history of theatre, and this season celebrates three of its greatest, funniest, and most passionate plays, performed by an exceptionally talented repertory cast. The plays are the heart of a 10 week festival including readings of classic and contemporary Spanish plays, discussions, music, dance and food.”

The three plays are:

Sean O’Brien’s new translation of Tirso de Molina’s Don Gil of the Green Breeches (Don Gil de las Calzas Verdes) (1615) directed by Mehmet Ergen – Thursday, January 9 to Saturday, March 15.

Dona Juana has fallen for the oldest trick in the book. The dashing Don Martin, the man she thought she was going to marry, has left her for the wealthy Dona Ines. However, Dona Juana is not the sort of woman to take this lying down. She pulls on a pair of green breeches and sets off to Madrid in hot pursuit of Don Martin, assuming the same name he is using to woo his new lover – a strategy which will either cause a change of heart or complete chaos.

Blending mistaken identity, role-reversal, ghosts and green trousers, Don Gil of the Green Breeches is described as a deliciously anarchic and exuberant comedy which has been newly translated by Sean O’Brien, an award-winning English poet, critic and playwright. O’Brien’s prizes include the Somerset Maugham Award, the Cholmondeley Award, the Forward Poetry Prize and the T. S.Eliot Prize.

David Johnston’s new translation of Lope de Vega’s A Lady of Little Sense (La Dama Boba) (1613) directed by Laurence Boswell – Saturday, January 11 to Saturday, March 15.

Nise and Finea are famous beauties. Their father, Don Octavio, a wealthy businessman, is doing his best to marry them off and an exotic collection of determined young suitors are competing for the prizes.

The sticking point? Nise, the elder sister, is too clever for her own good, whilst younger sister Finea is notoriously stupid. Can the family hide Finea’s shortcomings long enough to hoodwink a suitor into marriage? Surely the combination of a dancing master and a huge dowry will do the trick? The ploy is more successful than anyone might have anticipated.

A Lady of Little Sense is described as a big-hearted and hilarious romantic comedy which celebrates the power of love.

Meredith Oakes’ new translation of Lope de Vega’s Punishment Without Revenge (El Castigo sin Venganza) (1631) directed by Laurence Boswell – Friday, January 10 to Friday, March 14.

Regarded as the greatest tragedy of the Spanish Golden Age and the finest play of its presiding genius, Lope de Vega, this elegant work is set in the dangerous and glamorous world of Renaissance Italy.

The Duke of Ferrara has lived a wild and unconventional life. An infamous womaniser, his only son Federico is a bastard whom he dreams will one day succeed him. When his subjects demand that he marry and provide them with the stability of a legitimate heir, the proud and beautiful Cassandra, Duchess of Mantua, is sent to be his bride.

But everything does not fall happily into place. A passionate love develops – but not between the Duke and his Duchess – and, in a culture where honour is the highest virtue, there can be only one outcome.

A dark and thrilling drama, Punishment without Revenge is described as an audacious blend of unbearable tension and delicious comedy which both terrifies and delights.

The Spanish Golden Age company are Nick Barber, Jim Bywater, Hedydd Dylan, Annie Hemingway, William Hoyland, Katie Lightfoot, Frances McNamee, Chris Andrew Mellon, Doug Rao and Simon Scardifield.

Presented by Arcola Theatre, Theatre Royal Bath and Belgrade Theatre Coventry, the Spanish Golden Age has set and costume design by Mark Bailey, lighting by Ben Ormerod, composition and sound by Jon Nicholls and movement direction by Lucy Cullingford. Costume Supervisor is Lisa Aitken.

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Tickets: £16 – £18 (£12 – £14 concessions), Previews £14, Pay What You Can Tuesdays. To book, call the box office on 020 7503 1646 or visit

Times: Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm, Saturday at 2.30pm.