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Shakespeare In Love

First Published 24 July 2014, Last Updated 6 August 2014

What’s it all about?

Billy the Bard has writer’s block. Desperate for inspiration, and cash, and with a play promised to two producers, he meets Viola De Lesseps, who gets his words and juices flowing. She wants to be a performer, so dresses as a boy to join Shakespeare’s troupe. (Does this all sound a tad… Shakespearean? There’s much of that, and it’s marvellous.) Though, as Will the wordsmith might say “The course of true love never did run smooth.”

Who’s in it?

Tom Bateman and Lucy Briggs-Owen are a beautiful central pairing, both emotionally and aesthetically. He finds the desperation of a creator who can’t create and the heart-bursting emotion of one all-consumed by passion. She reveals a woman entranced by romance and poetry to doe-eyed perfection.

But theirs is not the only love story. David Oakes as a charismatic Marlowe, held just on the likeable side of smarmy, is the object of Will’s bromance. You can see why Billy S would look up to this big bro figure who seems to have it all.

With so many characters, I could name check the entire ensemble, such is the strength of their wholly enjoyable performances.

What should I look out for?

The many Shakespearean parallels and lines hidden throughout the production like literary Easter eggs. There’s surely a Bardic drinking game waiting to be created to celebrate them.

Neil Austin’s stunning lighting that at times feels like an oil painting, putting one in the mind of Joseph Wright’s An Experiment On A Bird In An Air Pump.

The most atrocious set of auditionees since Britain’s Got Talent’s Best of the Worst compilation.

Who was in the first night crowd?

David Suchet and Zoe Wanamaker were both in, as was Hattie Morahan, who was supporting mum Anna Carteret who plays Queen Elizabeth I. Scarlett Strallen looked stunning in black on the red carpet. (You can see our red carpet pictures on Facebook.) Directors Stephen Daldry, John Tiffany, Michael Grandage and Edward Hall were all in to check out Shakespeare In Love director Declan Donnellan’s work.

In a nutshell?

London’s new Bardic blockbuster is a warm and witty love letter to the stage. You’d be a hey nonny ninny to miss it.

What’s being said on Twitter?

‏@netsymac Very much enjoyed #shakespeareinlove last night. And @PaulChahidi was magnificent as always.

@annalisagordon Still on a high after #shakespeareinlove press night last night. Glorious love letter to theatre and a great night out. @BriggsOwen WOW!

Will I like it (or to see or not to see)?

Shakespeare In Love is very much a love letter to theatre and the Bard written by two acclaimed theatre men – Tom Stoppard first for film, now Lee Hall for the stage. If you love theatre you’ll love it for its in jokes alone.

Even if you’re not a passionate theatrephile, Shakespeare In Love is a cracking tale of love, passion, friendship, honour and performance that will make you laugh, grin, smile and maybe even shed a tear or two.

Oh, and if you don’t know, there’s a bit with a dog… which leads to one of my favourite Shakespearean puns of all time.

Shakespeare In Love is booking at the Noël Coward Theatre until 25 October. You can book tickets through us here.


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