If your response to that headline is ‘whaa?’, calm yourself. Possibly it was that week you were off with ‘suspected glandular fever’, or possibly it’s because, for a long time, no one thought that ‘The Two Noble Kinsmen’ was even by Shakespeare, never mind about reading or performing it. Anyway, it’s next up in The Globe’s excellent series of streamed live archive performances. These days, it’s believed that this is Shakespeare’s final play, written in collaboration with Jacobean playwright John Fletcher.
Plotwise, it’s Bard business as usual. Although it’s ostensibly set in Athens and Thebes, ‘The Two Noble Kinsmen’ features a troupe of morris dancers – not generally reckoned to play a big part in ancient Greek culture. The pair of titular knights are both in love with the same lady, and must reconcile their courtly bond while wishing the other one would just get the hell out of the picture. Around them, there’s a backstory about a tyrant, some unshriven dead kings and a subplot involving a jailer’s daughter who goes out of her mind. Cue the morris dancers.
This production from 2018 is a rare outing for this oddball tragicomedy (always a tricky genre). Time Out’s review at the time was enthusiastic: ‘The extended Ye Olde English song-and-dance sequence [that] kind of looks like Busby Berkeley directing “The Wicker Man” is genuinely sublime (there are wonderfully lurid costumes too)’, while accepting that ‘TTNK’ is no one’s idea of a masterpiece. Another highlight is the music from folk icon Eliza Carthy.
If you missed your regular pagan knees-up around May Day (like these people evidently did), this eccentric corner of the Shakespearian canon is a bit of a treat. With bells on.
‘The Two Noble Kinsmen’ is streamed on Shakespeare’s Globe’s YouTube channel from 7pm BST tonight (Mon May 4). It’s available for two weeks.
See the whole list of Shakespeare’s Globe’s streaming series here.
The National Theatre is streaming a production a week for free. See the full programme here.