Shakespeare in Love, Noel Coward Theatre

It is so rare to find a play that has perfected the balance between comedy, romance and tragedy – but look no further – for here it is.

This stage adaptation of the highly successful film starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes (1998) is a re-telling of the imaginary romance between Will Shakespeare and his muse Viola de Lesseps, whilst Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet.

The play is full of double entendre, wordplay, puns and witty references to all things Shakespeare. A substantial amount of the comic value is owed to the audience’s knowledge of Shakespeare’s work: we laugh when we recognise the literary quotes and references – mindful that this is a play within a play.

Each member of the cast is extremely well placed. Most notably, Eve Ponsonby as Viola de Lesseps and Orlando James as Will Shakespeare. The actors’ devotion and passion to their individual roles is apparent and this makes for a lively, exhilarating performance that sweeps a feeling of euphoria throughout the theatre, where almost everyone is smiling.

There is a mixture of light-hearted matter to more serious themes of death and love: the play covers a remarkable amount of subject matters. For example the boy who has a speech impediment and who stutters for an uncomfortable amount of time is meant to be funny, but we also feel bad for laughing.

Then there is the beautiful haunting singing played by the countertenor Charlie Tighe which acts as an interlude in the constant changing disposition of the play.

The set is fantastic, every nook and cranny of the stage is used. Sometimes we are looking at the stage, sometimes it is reverted and we are backstage. Players entering from back stage left right, up on the balconies. There is never a dull moment thanks to the choreography.

It really is a triumph to pull off these high-risk scenes – sword fighting, a dancing-singing chorus and of course the dog. This is to the credit of the creative team behind this superb play.

LAST CHANCE TO SEE. Runs until the 18th April 2015, visit: 

by Heather Wells

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