Shakespeare in Love
Noel Coward Theatre
Shakespeare in Love brings Shakespeare back to life. Based on the award wining romantic comedy movie, the play follows the brilliant playwright through a passionate love affair that inspires one of his most known works Romeo and Juliet. The 1998 film starring Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow stole the world’s heart and earned seven Academy Awards because of it. Lee Hall, writer of Billy Elliot adapts the screenplay perfectly for the stage making it a show you don’t want to miss.
The play is set in 1953 and Shakespeare has been commissioned to write a play that includes “love, comedy, a pirate and a dog.” He is struggling to write his unfinished play, hesitantly titled Romeo and Ethel: The Pirate’s Daughter by picking the brain of his friendly competitor Marlowe. The problem is he already sold the rights to his play and it is no where close to being finished. Pressured he begins to audition the part of Romeo and comes across the talented Thomas Kent. What he doesn’t know is that Thomas Kent has a secret. He is actually Viola de Lesseps, a young noble women who has a love for the theatre and is determined to play the role even though women are forbidden to perform on the stage. As soon as Shakespeare discovers Kent’s true identity he discovers his muse, falls head over heels in love and the play Romeo and Juliet is born.
From the first note played by the live musicians on the stage the audience is taken back to Elizabethan London, where theatre is in high demand and what the Queen wants the Queen gets. Tom Bateman charmingly woos the audience with his portrayal of William Shakespeare and Lucy Briggs-Owen shines as the free spirited Viola, doubling as Thomas Kent. The chemistry between the two is undeniable as the audience watches the romance blossom. One of the highlights of the show is the recognizable parallels between Viola and Shakespeare’s love affair and the story of Romeo and Juliet.
Colin Ryan is one of the production’s major scene stealers one liners and dumbstruck expressions leaves the audience in fits of laughter. His character’s physical disabilities do portray him as one of society’s underdogs, but when Queen Elizabeth asks for his name, he replies with “Webster”. When he tells him that he has a bright future, he replies “cool, thanks.” The underlying joke is that Webster ended up being a very successful playwright.
What makes this show so successful is its ability to transport the audience to the Elizabethan times. The cast includes live musicians who play pieces of music that would have been heard in Queen Elizabeth’s court. The real eye catcher is the moving set pieces which switch the setting from a pub, Viola’s bedroom, the Queen’s court and finally the Globe theatre. Every moment of this play gives the audience an authentic Elizabethan play experience.