Produced by Cheek by Jowl

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Cast in order of speaking

Mary AskhamElvira
Keith BartlettDon Gomez
Patricia KerriganChimena
Anne WhiteThe Infanta
Melina McGrawLeonora
Patrick RomerDon Diego
Aden GillettDon Rodrigo
Stephen SimmsDon Arias
David MorrisseyDon Alonzo
Hugh RossThe King
Timothy WalkerDon Sancho

DirectorDeclan Donnellan
DesignerNick Ormerod
Composer / Musical DirectorJoanna MacGregor
Lighting DesignerAlex Starr


Since he wrote neither musicals nor flippant comedies, it is perhaps not surprising that Corneille has never been performed at the National Theatre. It has been left to the adventurous Cheek by Jowl Company at the Donmar Warehouse to bring us what is probably his finest drama, The Cid. With its fluid rhythms, its few rhymes and its many colloquialisms, David Bryer's translation is very much for the present day. If, inevitably, it robs the work of its grandeur, it sharpens for a modern audience the absurdity of "honour" repeatedly shown in conflict with reason.

The strength of Declan Donnellan's wholly admirable production lies in a combination of simplicity and style. Patricia Kerrigan makes a Chimena suitably torn apart by emotion and there is nice irony in Hugh Ross' playing of the cool, cynical monarch. Sunday Times. 25 January 1987


I never cease bemoaning the parochialism of the British theatrical repertoire. We endlessly churn out the same old plays while virtually ignoring the great European classics. But my point that we have been missing out on masterpieces is eloquently make by Cheek by Jowl's touring production of The Cid which , along with Peking Opera, turned out the be the highlight of the first week of the Dublin Theatre Festival. The play is almost unknown in Britain, yet I defy anyone seeing it not to realise the have stubbed their toe against something remarkable.

Corneille's tragic-comedy, written in 1636 and set in Seville, reminds us that great drama resides in agonising moral choices; he presents us with not one but with a multiplying series. Within 10 minutes of curtain rise the hero, Don Rodgrigo has been confronted by a cruel dilemma. His father has been publicly insulted by Don Gomes, the father of his fiancée, Chimena, in avenging the insult, he risks losing her love and when he duly kills her father, Chimena herself is torn between her passion for Rodrigo and her desire for filial justice.

But the conflicts do no end there. Rodrigo saves the state by defeating the Moors and so the King himself is faced both by his wish to honour Rodrigo and by Chimena's hunger for revenge. In a bitterly ironic twist, the King allows Chimena's champion to challenge Rodrigo to a duel; the reward, to her horror, turns out to be her hand in marriage.

Corneille's play can be seen as a series of conflicts between love and duty, the private and the public good. But its real theme is the double-edged nature of justice. If you remorselessly seek it, as Chimena does, you risk ruining your life. If you sidestep it, as the King does, you run into the quicksand of opportunism: pardoning Rodrigo, the King is bluntly asked, "Will you just for him turn upside down the time honoured laws of our kingdom?"

Wisely the director, Declan Donnellan, treats the play as an ironic moral comedy shadowed by death. And setting the play on a stage bare except for banquette seating and an astral Spanish floorcloth, he gets particularly fine performances from Hugh Ross as the suave monarch in blue tunic and from Patricia Kerrigan as the proud, flame haired Chimena.

David Bryer's decasyllabic verse translation also blows sky high the usual puny claim that French classic drama cannot be done in English. The matinee audience at Dublin's Mansion House sat as if gripped by a vice. Michael Billington, The Guardian. 10 June 1986