Its website calls on the audience to "discover a forgotten Shakespeare", claiming this is the first professional production of Double Falsehood for more than 200 years. Whether you think the academics were right to include this controversial text in the Arden edition of Collected Works or not, we were there to see the play — and decide if it was an entertaining piece of drama, not get tangled up in how much was by John Fletcher and how much was "our Will".
Yet it's impossible to watch the play without noting the Shakespearean elements of the plot. There's a resentful younger brother, a helpful Friar, a girl disguised as a boy and madness followed by redemption in an out-of-town wilderness. In his rape of the virtuous Violante (Jessie Lilley) and subsequent seduction of Leonora (Kate Webster), Henrique displays what's described in the notes as that "motiveless malignancy" we see in other Shakespearean characters like Iago and Edmund.
Phil Willmott's 1950s Spanish-look production starts slowly with confusingly little chemistry between Leonora and her lover Julio, well played by Gabriel Vick. Things heat up with the shocking rape scene; actor Adam Redmore shows Henrique's immediate horror, guilt and excuses after the act with skill. There are other nice touches: Leonora kissing, then hitting, then kissing the returning Julio; and the excellent verbal duelling between the pair's parents (Donna Benita's chosen weapon: a well-flicked fan) played by Su Douglas and Stephen Boswell.
The awkward final reconciliation is also well handled. Lilley's Violante is clearly resigned to her fate (and that of women at the time) when she demands marriage from her attacker. "Protect my virtue, though it hurt your faith, And my last breath shall speak Henrique noble". But we're not given a straightforward "happy ending"; we can only hope Violante's virtue will win the day, in time.
But this is a rather static, safe production, and some members of the cast are less convincing than others. Occasionally, the actors look a bit lost on the larger stage; they're certainly not helped by the incessant smoke machine and the distracting rumblings of the Charing Cross trains combined with laughy, shouty people heading to Heaven outside.
All in all, this is a diverting production, but not a defining one. And if it was written by Will, we can't help wishing he'd worked a bit harder on it.
Double Falsehood plays at the New Players Theatre until 19 February. Tickets £15 or £12.50. Visit www.doublefalsehood.org for more information.
Photo by Scott Rylander shows Adam Redmore as Henrique and Jessie Linley as Violante.