Counterfeiters' Tragedy is a Jacobean
pastiche by a 'mystery' female author, and credited
to the fictitious 'Edmund Prowe'. Below is the author's note, as
reproduced in the theatrical programme.
All plays, by definition, are - to some extent, at least - about people pretending to be something they're not. But it's hard to think of a time when playwrights have had such a profound and relentless obsession with pretence as the Jacobeans did. Their plays are filled with a deep anxiety, but also a great excitement, about deceit; in the classic revenge tragedies it is primarily the actions of concealment and disclosure which are the driving forces behind the plots. Disguises, masks, lies, wordplay... the signs of duplicity are everywhere. Even the ubiquitous ghosts and madmen pose questions about what can look like a person but still, somehow, fall short. The Jacobeans were simultaneously worried and fascinated by the ways in which something can appear to be something it isn't: something else, something other.
And, paradoxically, if The Counterfeiters' Tragedy could claim any kind of authenticity, it might be precisely because it, too, is pretending to be something it isn't. Not only are the characters deceitful, mendacious, insincere - but the play itself is clearly not what it says it is. The characters speak of a binary divide between truth and lies, true and false; but the most interesting things are what happen in the space between real and not-real, between actor and character, between authenticity and pastiche.
Edmund Prowe is not her real name.
"When a person cannot deceive himself, the chances are against his being able to deceive other people."
- Mark Twain, Autobiography
The Counterfeiters' Tragedy received its premiere production as part of the 2006 Open Secret season in London.
and contents copyright © 2007 Open Secret Season. All rights