A Masque in Honour of Chastity
(Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, 26 October 2016)
Comus is the first of several productions I’ll be seeing at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse this season and it proved to be a curious kettle of fish. It was commissioned from John Milton by the Earl of Bridgewater, who had just been appointed Lord President of Wales, and was performed on Michelmas 1634 at the Earl’s new seat of Ludlow Castle. The three main roles of the Lady and her two Brothers were performed by the Earl’s own children, and the masque trumpeted the family’s honour, virtue and chastity. Of course, such trumpeting only hints that there was something to hide, and this production cleverly puts Comus back into context. But even the excellent team at the Globe can’t overcome the issues of the text, and Comus never quite stops feeling like a historical curiosity.