Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Shakespeare in Love

Great to see 'Shakespeare in Love', along St Martins Lane.

This is the stage adaptation of what started as a movie from Tom Stoppard.

Lee Hall, who wrote Billy Elliott, penned this adaptation and its a cracking evening at the theatre.

They've given the stage at the Noel Coward Theatre a superb three-tier treatment recreating a kind of 'Globe meets Rose' Elizabethan look. The cast is huge, more than 20 players, many with cameo roles as well as ensemble playing and there's always lively things both in the action and cast eavesdropping from the sometimes reversed stage and from the galleries.

The rom-com plot is about how Shakespeare overcomes writer's block assisted by his new found muse Viola de Lesseps and with help from his sometimes rival Kit Marlowe. There's plenty of in-joke Shakespeare references, with many famous lines dropped into new phrases. 'Out damn Spot' springs to mind, but there are many others. A slightly pantomime reference to being delayed at Putney Bridge also got a knowing Londoner laugh (the bridge is closed for road-works at the moment, creating some interesting west London snarl-ups).

The production is lavish, with many dramatically-lit tableau scenes. Queen Elizabeth I is accompanied by an excellent Lord Chancellor and there's a suitably authentic band with lutes, mandolins and a hurdy-gurdy to accompany the action.

Both Tom Bateman as Shakespeare and Lucy Briggs-Owen as Viola play their parts well, balanced with the rest of a strong cast.

A thoroughly good night out and a great choice for the West End. It might be knowingly a bit 'Shakespeare-lite' but it has swagger and a full Romeo and Juliet style storyline interwoven with the humour.

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