Last Tuesday evening was a really fun one for me. Why? Because after a few weeks of waiting, I got to see “Shakespeare in Love”, the play. I would assume most of you know the award winning film by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard that has the same title but not everyone got the chance to see the stage adapted version by Lee Hall and directed by Declan Donnellan. If you find yourself in London in the next few months, you might consider giving it a go.
Now, on Tuesday, we got there an hour and a half before to pick up our tickets, and stopped, after doing so, for a drink and a chat before letting ourselves to be mesmerized by the play. Also, like this, we had enough time to have a proper look at the Noel Coward Theatre and to discover on its walls framed evidence of the plays that took place there, some 50 years ago.
As in the original story, the play follows William Shakespeare, who is suffering from a serious case of writer’s block. “Shall I compare thee…?” is the first line the public can hear, followed by his confusion regarding the next words.
The story also wraps around Viola de Lesseps, a rich lady of Queen Elizabeth The First court, who after seeing one of Shakespeare’s plays decides to disguise herself as a man and audition as an actor. As Will is struggling with his new play, which must include a dog to please the Queen, he gets to know Viola, who inspires him and makes his new creation take a different turn.
Even if the play uses several memorable lines from the movie, I do believe it stands out on its own right.
Lucy Briggs-Owen (playing Viola and Thomas) is truly captivating and adds a lot of warmth and humor to the role. As Viola she is sensual and strong and makes us laugh multiple times, including at the beginning of part two with “Oh, I would not have thought it. There is something better than a play!” (after making love to Will for the first time). And as Thomas, trying to be a part of the group without being recognized and ending up having funny lines like “But I want a drink with the lads!”
Tom Bateman is quite a strong, muscular, square-jawed and easy on the eyes Shakespeare. He goes during the play through various emotions and portrays all of them beautifully and at the right intensity. He is hopeful, sad, happy, full of sorrow and willing to abandon his gift for Viola’s love.
His friend and rival, Christopher Marlowe, is the one who helps Will during different stages of the play. Marlowe, who has a bigger role than in the movie, seemed to take over the public’s attention sometimes and is played with tons of charm and wit by David Oakes.
The really unexpected surprise was Spot, the dog who appeared on stage on multiple occasions and was awarded with a lot of applause.
The play ended on a very cheerful note while the actors performed a final dance for the public and were “allowed” to leave the stage after at least three rounds of applause.
Would you like it? You would have to go and see it. But I wish and recommend, you would go, if you can.
I, for one, loved it. It was funny, witty and deep sometimes, it had romantic parts, sad and cheerful ones, it is a jolly mix with a good Romeo and Juliette scene, a well picked cast and music. It is a smart, moving and memorable play that might make you somehow fall in love with Shakespeare (if you haven’t already).
This article has been written in partnership with Edge and Back.