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Shakespeare in Love
October 22nd - October 27th
Eleanor Lloyd Productions and Theatre Royal Bath Productions
By special arrangement with Disney Theatrical Group and Sonia Friedman Productions present
Shakespeare in Love
THE HIT FILM NOW A HIT PLAY!
Winning no fewer than seven Academy Awards, including Best Screenplay, the 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 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 frosty 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.
This new production will be directed by Phillip Breen, director of the highly acclaimed recent Royal Shakespeare Company productions of The Merry Wives of Windsor and The Hypocrite.
Pierro Niel-Mee will star as Will Shakespeare with Imogen Daines as Viola, Rob Edwards as Fennyman, Geraldine Alexander as the Queen, Edmund Kingsley as Kit Marlowe, Bill Ward (Coronation Street, Emmerdale) as Wessex, Ian Hughes as Henslowe, Giles Taylor as Tilney and De Lesseps, Edward Harrison as Burbage and Phillip Labey as Sam.
★★★★★ “Deliciously funny… makes you grateful to be alive” Independent
★★★★★ “The best British comedy since One Man, Two Guvnors” Daily Telegraph
★★★★★ “A swooning delight. Terrific” Daily Mail
★★★★★ “An absolute joy from beginning to end” Daily Express
★★★★★ “A riotously enjoyable evening in the theatre” Sunday Times
Production Photographs by Pete le May
Ticket price includes a £1 contribution to our heritage fund.
A fantastic play - one definitely not to be missed. The acting is superb, such talent. We loved every minute.
'Tis a dark and dimly-lit stage that greets audience at the theatre this week, not surprising as the only lighting around in the days of William Shakespeare would have been candles. Not that it stays dark for long as the cast surround the man himself hanging off his every word. Or at least waiting for him to finish the sentence "Shall I compare thee…". For Shakespeare has lost his mojo, relying on his friend and fellow writer Kit Marlowe for help and inspiration.
Previously a film starring Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow, this new Theatre Royal Bath touring version of Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman's comedy Shakespeare In Love has been adapted for the stage by Billy Elliot's Lee Hall, with the live music played on stage composed by Paddy Cunneen. And the apparently simple stage, no doubt reflecting what would have been the norm at the time, cleverly revolves to adapt itself, in particular, to present the front of stage and backstage views of the action.
The hero of the piece is played by Pierro Niel-Mee, perfectly portraying the attractive young but frustrated author as he tries to get his manuscript both finished and staged. This is a play which - eventually, after a number of humourous false starts such as "Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter" - he is persuaded to give it the title "Romeo and Juliette". But there are also references involving other plays, including even Spot the Dog (!)
In this period of theatre, women did not usually participate in the acting, female roles being taken by a male, and so, in a case of life imitating art, Shakespeare inevitably falls in love with Viola De Lesseps (Imogen Daines) who, desperate to be on the stage, dresses up as a man in order to be included.. Shakespeare is seemingly unaware that this is the same person that he bedded (comically) at the start of Act Two. Just to complicate matters, Viola is to be betrothed to Lord Wessex (Bill Ward)…
Skulduggery abounds throughout the play with writers, publishers, theatre owners like Philip Henslowe (Ian Hughes - who gets many of the funniest lines), even the Queen's representative "Master of the Revels", all regularly at each others' throats, leading to some very spirited and lively sword fighting as the attempts to close down the show because of their perceived debauchery (having a woman in a play).
All's well that ends well, however, and the finale is a jolly fine musical knees-up on stage.
This is a rumbustious production which gives a good flavour of what it must have been like for theatre-goers and writers and actors and which, though not necessarily historically accurate, provides a great fun evening's entertainment from a fine cast of players and musicians.
One of the best plays I have ever seen, just brilliant. Witty, clever and so much fun the acting, singing and dancing were superb!
This is far worse than the light and frothy film on which it is based and is in my view nothing like as successful. In its execution it reminds me of one of those one-series only comedies that Radio 4 puts on at 6.30pm while you are waiting for The Archers. The play has two main tropes. The first is to include lots of quotes from all over Shakespeare and well beyond with a knowing wink. This seems designed to flatter the audience into thinking how clever they are because they recognise the quotes. This being Malvern they got most of them, though I think most of them missed the bizarre inclusion of Disraeli's (misquoted) remark that Robert Peel's smile was like the "brass [silver] plate on a coffin". Some of this stuff was massively trite and stale - I can remember "Out damned spot" being used of a dog named Spot by "I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again" back in the 1960s. The debt to Radio 4 comedy truly was a large one.
The second trope is to use modern sayings ahistorically. Typical example: "I had that Kit Marlowe in the back of my boat once". One of the more bizarre was a character apologising for being late "because the traffic was so bad on Pulteney Bridge". This might have made a tiny bit of sense when the play was performed in the sponsoring Theatre Royal Bath (even though the bridge was not built until 1776) but why the line was kept in for Malvern is beyond me. The audience seemed bemused but laughed anyway because they knew they were supposed to.
Even the music was a pastiche of the sort you would write if attempting to parody the work of Guy Wolfenden, the long-time Director of Music at the RSC. Here it just added to the synthetic Merrie England feel of the whole thing.
I cannot fault the actors who did their best with this stuff and went about their work with smiling determination. Some of the casting was strange: John Webster was played by a mixed-race young woman for no reason that I could ever discern.
I must in fairness report that the audience seemed to enjoy the whole thing very much and gave the show rousing applause at the end. I fully accept that my opinion will be very much a minority one.
The ultimate - and sad - irony was that while this piece of candy floss confection was playing in the main Festival Theatre, a real Shakespeare play, Henry V, was in the secondary Forum Theatre and for a much shorter run. If I may be allowed a quote of my own: "Oh tempora, o mores." And yes, I am going to see Henry V tonight.
All the timing, talent and professionalism of a West End play or RSC production, in Malvern.
An absolute joy!