There are plays which stay with you long after you have left the theatre. Plays like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Titus Andronicus, and Death of a Salesman, all of which are currently on the stage or are about to be, and are fantastic examples of theatre that can make you think. Yet there are so many more plays that need to be on stage now.
Aphra Behn is a playwright whose work should be shouted about from the rooftops. A fantastic poet and playwright, she was also a spy for Charles II, and her work is infused with wit, bawdiness, and interesting women. Set in the midst of a Spanish masque, The Rover follows sisters Florinda and Helena, as they each search for something special before they are tied down. The play includes ribald sexual imagery, a rakish character called Willmore, and many moments of mistaken identity, all of which comes together to create a truly funny play. Last performed in London in 2009, The Rover needs to return to the stage now.
Sometimes it seems like you can’t move in the West End without facing a theatre performing a Shakespeare play. However, there are some plays which get performed again and again, and others which seem to have fallen completely out of favour. The Taming of the Shrew is an example of the latter. In recent years it seems that only the RSC and productions at The Globe have tackled this work. Ostensibly about ‘taming’ a willful woman, there are so many opportunities in The Taming of the Shrew to make a commentary on the desire to change others, or about the position of women in a male dominated society. This play deserves a longer run, with a heavily ironic take on the idea of taming.
Google Lovers’ Vows by Elizabeth Inchbald, and you are most likely to find a lot of discussion of its presence in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park and very little about the play in its own right. Focusing on illegitimate children and sex outside of marriage, the play was scandalous when it was first published. Inchbald is a wonderful writer, and it would be fantastic to see this play, with its substantial cultural significance, on the stage for a limited run. Austen lovers would surely flock to it for a greater understanding of its presence in Mansfield Park, and it gives an interesting insight into Eighteenth Century morality.
The Man of Mode by George Everage is another Restoration drama which deserves to return to the London stage. The National Theatre produced a modern dress production of the play in 2007, featuring Tom Hardy and Rory Kinnear, and it would be fantastic to see another such production on the stage in the West End. Focusing on the character of Dorrimant, who is an unrepentant womaniser and rake, the modern fascination with the transformation of the ‘bad boy’ would assure that this highly amusing play could find an audience.
There are many other Restoration and Eighteenth Century pieces of theatre which seem to have been forgotten by modern productions, and the plays featured here are merely a beginning of a much wider list. There is hope however for those who love theatre. More productions of forgotten works are emerging every year, and theatre companies merely need evidence of interest.