Winning no less than seven Academy Awards, including best screenplay, the 1998 film of Shakespeare in Love, starring Judi Dench, Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow, became an instant classic. Adapted by Lee Hall for a triumphant West End run, this epic Elizabethan extravaganza is exuberant, witty, funny, and a beautiful homage to love, art, and the theatre itself.
Young Will Shakespeare has writer’s block… the deadline for his new play – a comedy called Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter – is fast approaching; he’s struggling to finish the first line of a sonnet and he’s in dire need of inspiration. Then he meets the beguiling Viola de Lesseps, the beautiful daughter of a wealthy merchant. Viola is prepared to do anything – including risking the regal disapproval of Queen Elizabeth I – to fulfil her illicit dream of performing on the London stage and pursuing a passionate affair with the greatest playwright of the age.
Shall I compare thee to an award-winning film?
Thou art more lively and more charming…
Lee Hall’s Shakespeare in Love is an absolute joy to watch. The impressively sharp, witty language and inside-jokes will keep the audience entertained and engaged in the fanciful, yet believable, romance of Will and Viola.
Led superbly by Imogen Daines and Pierro Niel-Mee, the play displays a convincing and passionate love affair that brings familiar scenes from Romeo and Juliet to life with humorous twists (such as the strong implications related to Marlowe’s, let’s say, influence over Shakespeare’s writing).
Pierro Niel-Mee’s Han Solo vibes during his performance as Will, replacing the famous image we all have of the Bard’s balding head with a younger, more handsome playwright. He perfectly captures Shakespeare’s passionate character and layers it with more a more relatable, comedic side that emerges in his scenes with Kit Marlowe (Edmund Kingsley).
The ensemble cast delivers a range of amusing characters, with particular mention of Rowan Polonski as Ned Alleyne (who is given the role of Mercutio). Polonski steals most scenes he is in with his hilarious clowning and excellent sense of timing. The snug red leather trousers just might have something to do with that too…
The use of live musical instruments on stage is always a nice touch. It helps capture the setting and period as well as building an atmosphere that subtly includes the audience in the performance. In this production the music also enhances the slick-scene changes that are created through the inventive use of the revolving stage and a stripped-back setting.
Shakespeare in Love is a perfect celebration of the great playwright and offers an evening filled with high-spirits as you enjoy this fantastic (and, in my opinion, improved) adaptation of the award-winning film.
By Kim Ford for Love Books Group
MON 12 NOV TO SAT 17 NOV 2018
Evenings 7.30pm, Matinees Wed & Sat 2.30pm
Running time (approx.): 2 hours 45 minutes (incl. 20 min interval)
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