Previewed 31 January 2006, opened 1 February 2006, closed 11 February 2006 at the Trafalgar Studios in London
"I will like a palm tree, Grow under my huge weight. Nor shall the fear, Of death or torture that dejection bring. To make me live, or die, less than a king."Believe What You Will, Act I Scene i
A Middle Eastern leader comes out of hiding to reclaim his identity. Denied of his crown and denounced by the Roman Empire, he flees for his life. Rome pursues, threatening any country he turns to with sanctions, violence and conquest. Which sovereign state will defy the Roman Empire?
Believe What You Will was written by Philip Massinger. This production is directed by Josie Rourke and was previously seen at The Swan Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon during the 2005 Festival Season.
"No wonder Philip Massinger got into trouble with this play. In its original form, it was banned by the master of the revels in 1630 because it would have offended Philip II of Spain: it was about his overthrow of poor King Sebastian of Portugal and the emergence of a pretender who was almost certainly an imposter. The following year, a new version was allowed. Here, the pretender clearly isn't an imposter: he is King Antiochus the Great (Peter de Jersey), defeated by Rome in 190BC. I doubt if anyone was fooled by the change. The message is clear. Massinger is writing about the misuse of power: a favourite topic of Jacobean and Caroline theatre, and one that hasn't lost its-force... The company acting is of the highest standard: the RSC is back, and Michael Boyd's leadership is beginning to pay its long-awaited dividends." The Sunday Times
"Massinger tussled wit state control, in the form of the censor, and Believe What You Will's 2BC setting was adopted to disguise the play's inflammatory contemporary politics. Nowadays, it has a renewed relevance... Time and again in Josie Rourke’s sparklingly clear production, startling modern resonances leap out of the text... Rourke's direction has an intelligent elegance, yet... it never quite delivers the emotional charge that would electrify its flow of ideas. But its power play is still often absorbing." The Times