THEATRE-lovers take note. Next Thursday to Saturday you’ll have the first real chance to experience the magic of York’s newest theatre.

Director Michael Cordner has chosen a real corker of a play to showcase the main stage at the University of York’s stunning new Department of Theatre, Film and TV: Thomas Middleton’s twisting Jacobean comedy of deceits, lies and dissembling A Mad World, My Masters.

A mad world it is, indeed, in this darkly witty masterpiece. The play takes its audience on a whirlwind ride through a series of plots and counterplots, with surprises around every corner and some of the cleverest comic plotting and dialogue written for the 17th century stage.

The action weaves together two contrasting stories of trickery and deceit (one involving money, the other adultery), in which those who think themselves most cunning do not always win the race.

“It’s about a trickster’s world, full of double-meanings, and very fast-moving,” says Prof Cordner, the department’s head of theatre. “It’s about being witty and out-manoeuvring other people: although the person that thinks they’re the wittiest doesn’t necessarily come out on top.”

With a cast of 17 – all of them students – and some mad-cap changes of scenery, the play will test the new theatre’s capabilities to the limit.

But never fear, this stage has already been described as one of the best-equipped in the country. This will be the York theatre-going public’s first chance to see that stage for themselves: and the cast and behind-the-scenes crew of A Mad World are relishing the chance to show it off.

The set has been designed by Alex Lowde, who has worked widely in professional theatre, including the Young Vic, the Lyric Hammersmith and Opera North.

His deceptively simple set consists of two massive walls, which can be lifted up and set down in new positions for different scenes. The walls are filled with doors, which open and shut repeatedly in the madcap comings and goings of the play. “It’s a door-closing kind of play!” Prof Cordner says.

Two scenes in particular were amongst the most famous written in the 17th century. One is set in three rooms simultaneously – two of them visible to the audience, one which you can only hear. There is also a scene in which a character decides to become a female impersonator, plus a ‘play within a play’, and even a scene in which a devil appears on stage. “It will be a real spectacle,” Prof Cordner says.

• A Mad World, My Masters, 7.45pm from Thursday to Saturday. Tickets from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 01904 623568 or at

• The production is part of the York Festival of Ideas. For details visit