The Swan has seen many undeservedly neglected plays resurrected over the years and Ben Jonson's political drama, receiving its RSC premiere, is another.
It was a flop when first staged in 1603, and got Jonson into trouble with the Privy Council. He later expanded it for private reading rather than the stage, so the published text would take about four hours to perform.
Director Greg Doran has reedited it for this production, so it is uncertain how closely it resembles the original play in which Shakespeare may have played Tiberius.
What matters is that the RSC has come up with a political thriller that can be placed illuminatingly alongside those of Shakespeare. Though its themes of over-reaching ambition and state paranoia are familiar, Jonson is much less interested in exploring them through a poetic prism, his more direct style being closer to modern political theatre.
Sejanus, the brilliant general who prospers under the patronage of Tiberius but is eventually cut down reaching for the Emperor's crown, might suggest parallels with Macbeth. But ironically the two innocent heirs threatened here by the upstart's ambitions are none other than Rome's most notorious future rulers, Nero and Caligula.
So where Macbeth is presented as an aberration, Sejanus is merely a passing player in a weary history of tyranny. The tragedy lies in the fact that a more rational and democratic Rome exists within living memory, and the powerless characters who are nostalgic for it are picked off one by one.
These include a historian whose allegedly subversive writings clearly have a direct resonance for Jonson.
He is less interested than Shakespeare would surely have been in building up his central character into a classical tragic anti-hero - Sejanus does not even appear for some time after the interval - but William Houston nevertheless gives us a big villain, with a disconcertingly big smile.
Alternately ingratiating and ruthless, he actually leaps into the air in triumph when he thinks the ultimate prize is within his grasp. But his weak point is the vanity which blinds him to the feint by which Tiberius and his new favourite Macro have plotted his downfall.
What brings the play so effectively to life is the exceptional vividness with which a large cast of supporting characters, both good and bad, are depicted. To give just one example: what an over-weening, weather-vane villain Kevin Harley makes of the orator, Afer.
And then there is Barry Stanton's Tiberius, a wonderful study of slippery hypocrisy overlaying flint. With its off-stage public turning on its former hero Sejanus, literally tearing him limb-from-limb only to regret its excess at once, Jonson's study of political intrigue is perfect in its cynicism. It's certainly a play for our times.
* Running time: Two hours, 55 minutes. In repertory until November 2.