Review Round Up: The Cardinal, Southwark Playhouse

Stephen Boxer and Natalie Simpson star in this revival of James Shirley’s play directed by Justin Audibert. Here is a round up of what critics have been saying about the production: 


WhatsOnStage: *** “A hands-off approach is understandable, giving a long-lost play a full and fair hearing, but ultimately unhelpful.”

The Times: ** “High camp and dense incense smother an influential piece of literary history.”

The Arts Desk: “Visually as well as textually, the production proves that in the right hands, neglected texts can find renewed life.”

Southwark News: “A real gem has come to the Playhouse”

The Stage: *** “It skims deftly along surface of the text without ever quite mining it for either deeper resonances or thrills – the result is enjoyably cartoonish, a spaghetti western in farthingale skirts.”

The Independent: **** “The Cardinal makes for an extremely enjoyable evening for fans of melodramatic tragedy, and broad humour delivered with aplomb.”

The Guardian: **** “Justin Audibert also gives this cracking play a vigorous production that, since many of the cast have lately worked with the RSC, would look at home in Stratford-on-Avon’s Swan theatre.”

The Telegraph: **** “a riveting piece of theatre – and a resonant portrait of a ruthless hierarchy of power that compromises everyone it touches.”

A Younger Theatre: “Audibert’s vivid staging makes fine use of the thrust and the simple set, designed and lit effectively, by Anna Reid and Peter Harrison respectively, to elicit a sense of claustrophobia.”

London Theatre 1: **** “an absorbing and entertaining production.”

The Reviews Hub: **** “Justin Audibert keeps the pace tight, the action thrilling and everyone on their toes.”

Exeunt Magazine: “The Cardinal works as a small-scale production played straight-on, offering an intriguing night out for Early Moderners and other drama nerds.”

British *** “Maybe James Shirley isn’t one of the greatest playwrights ever to animate the stages of this country, but he’s far from the worst, and this is probably his best effort.”

British Theatre Guide: “There are some very powerful moments but even as the conspiracies twist about The Cardinal never quite reaches the thrilling extremes that it might.”

There Ought to be Clowns: “lest the play ever become too po-faced, Audibert ensures a lightness of touch that keeps humour close to the surface.”

Live Theatre UK: “a highly underrated play that is getting a thoroughly deserved revival”

The Cardinal continues to play at the Southwark Playhouse until the 27th May. For more information and to book tickets visit:

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