I had high expectations when I entered the Noel Coward theatre to see Shakespeare in Love. Not only do I love the 1998 film, starring Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow, I had read this review which suggests the play ‘makes you feel grateful to be alive’. Happily I did not leave the theatre disappointed. This is a play I could watch more than once and probably laugh more each time.
The play opens with Will Shakespeare (Tom Bateman) overwhelmed with writer’s block and the weight of his audience’s expectations. He cannot write a word without the suggestions of Kit Marlowe, confidently played by David Oakes. The plot continues frantically on, with seamless scene changes due to the clever device of a moving balcony, to show Henslowe (Paul Chahidi) at the mercy of Fennyman (Ferdy Roberts) the money-lender and Viola (Lucy Briggs-Owen)as her impending marriage is about to be discussed. Throughout the rest of the play the audience is carried along on this constant motion until it is left to consider the final moments of calm.
The play captures the vitality which makes the film such a pleasure to watch and adds to it. Jokes are piled on top of one another as characters verbally spar but this does not prevent serious notes entering the plot. Inevitably Will and Viola’s love will not remain untouched by its Elizabethan surroundings.Their audience is constantly aware of this, particularly due to the mentions of Anne Hathaway throughout. Nevertheless, the comical aspects allow some hope to remain.
Despite the absence of costumes as impressive as Martin Clunes’ outfit in the film I thoroughly enjoyed the evening. Tickets are currently being sold until 25th October 2014 so I’d definitely recommend booking some soon if you intend to go. They’ll be selling like hot cakes and this is not a play you want to miss!