For me, seeing shows multiple times is a waste of time – there are so many plays and musicals in London that you’d struggle to see them all. Lee Hall’s adaptation of Shakespeare in Love however, is a show that joins the few I’ve seen more than once – three times to be exact.
There’s just something about it – the discreet comedy, the minstrels and the period in which it’s set. The Tudors are possibly the most popular Royal Family in terms of interest, with countless books, films and TV shows. Shakespeare himself remains one of the most performed playwrights in the world – no matter how much we complain about him at school, we love him!
Shakespeare in Love takes his life and spins it in a way that lets us get to know the Bard – dashing, imperfect and human. With a wife in Stratford, the young Will Shakespeare (Orlando James) has come to London to seek his fortune, yet he’s lost his gift and no muse can help him. Until that is he meets the love of his life, the beautiful Viola de Lesseps (Eve Ponsonby). With the help of some players, a nurse and of course Spot the dog, Will manages to find his words as he tells the story of these two star crossed lovers.
The two new leads have a strong chemistry and Ponsonby is an excellent Viola – headstrong, determined and sexy – and far less girly than Lucy Briggs-Owen. James gives Shakespeare a more mortal quality, more Hugh Grant to Tom Bateman’s Orlando Bloom.
Ryan Donaldson as Ned Alleyn is perfect – smooth, suave and sexy with just the right amount of arrogance and Paul Brennen as Fennyman is unknowingly hilarious, especially as the apothecary.
The show is still fantastic and the new cast are good, but the sudden increase in comedy does detract from the story itself. Elizabeth I (Suzanne Burden) no longer walks haughtily across the top of the stage instead of bowing, but joins in the jig (all shows must end with a jig). It is funny, but the overall experience is less emphatic and emotional than before.
Review by Michaela Clement-Hayes
Shakespeare In Love
Noel Coward Theatre
Booking From: 2nd July 2014
Evenings: Monday to Saturday 7.30pm
Matinees: Wednesday and Saturday 2.30pm
Saturday 7th February 2015