Since the Swan Theatre opened in 1986, we have presented nine of Ben Jonson plays - all the major ones, with two recent repeats to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Jonson publishing his own First Folio in 1616.
In the opening Season in 1986, Every Man in his Humour was a big hit, with Pete Postlethwaite, as Captain Bobadil and a young Simon Russell Beale as Ed Knowall.
In 1989, Epicene or The Silent Woman was directed by Danny Boyle (in his pre-Trainspotting, and Slumdog Millionaire days) with John Hannah as the eponymous Silent Woman, teasingly listed as "Hannah John" in the programme.
Matthew Warchus (the director of Matilda, who currently runs the Old Vic) directed two Ben Jonson comedies, The Alchemist in 1991 (with David Bradley and Jonathan Hyde as Face and Subtle), and then in 1995 The Devil is an Ass, with Douglas Henshall as Wittipol, David Troughton as Fitzdottterel, and Sheila Steafel as Lady Tailbush. Laurence Boswell directed a vibrant modern dress production of Bartholomew Fair in 1997, and Mal Storry and Guy Henry delighted in the chicanery of the Fox and his parasitic servant Mosca in Lindsay Posner's production of Volpone in 1999.
Trevor Nunn's revival of Volpone with Henry Goodman last year transposed the same city comedy to modern London, with brilliantly inventive satirical flare. Annette McLaughlin was particularly memorable as a media obsessed Lady Politic Wouldbe. Polly Findlay's production of The Alchemist which enjoyed a very successful run in the Swan this summer, and at the Barbican this autumn, with Mark Lockyer and Ken Nwosu as the two rogues.
My own experience of Ben Jonson in the Swan includes two of the rarities. In the theatre's second season, I was in Jonson's late play, The New Inn, directed by John Caird, and wittily designed by Sue Blane. It boasted a brilliant cast which included Fiona Shaw, Deborah Findlay, Richard McCabe and the late John Carlisle. Then in 2005 as part of the Gunpowder Season, I directed one of only two tragedies that Jonson wrote: the Roman thriller Sejanus, with William Houston as the eponymous Machiavellian over-reacher, and Barry Stanton as the Emperor Tiberius.
Some people may object that I should perhaps have scheduled Ben Jonson's The Magnetic Lady, or The Staple of the News before returning to his big hits, but it's important to revive the major works regularly, for an audience who weren't even born when we opened the Swan 30 years ago.