Review: Shakespeare In Love. The Little Theatre Leicester.

Shakespeare in Love is a heart-warming, fun and witty play based on the award-winning movie starring Judi Dench and Gwyneth Paltrow that swept the Oscars in 1999.

In the bustling city of 16th-century London, we find the playwright William Shakespeare (Ed Turner) in a rut. Struggling with writer’s block, he desperately searches for inspiration for his plays.

Fate intervenes when he crosses paths with Viola de Lesseps, (Nicole Collins) a spirited and passionate noblewoman. Viola is captivated by the world of theatre and disguises herself as a man to audition for one of Shakespeare’s plays. To everyone’s surprise, she lands the role of Romeo.

As Shakespeare and Viola’s forbidden love blossoms, their relationship becomes the driving force behind his creativity. Inspired by their intense romance and the challenges they face; Shakespeare finds the spark he needs to write “Romeo and Juliet.”

Within this tale of love and artistic fervour, we encounter a delightful mix of mistaken identities, clever wordplay based on Shakespeare’s plays along with captivating drama. Along the way, we meet other historical figures such as Elizabeth I (Jane Durant) and Wessex (John Moulding).

It’s a clever mash-up of romance, comedy, and drama. It explores love, creativity and the timeless genius of Shakespeare himself. With a little help from Kit Marlow charmingly played by Max Mayer.

Familiar Shakespearean themes run throughout; star crossed lovers, swordfights, murder, cross dressing, slapstick and bawdy comedy. Oh and a naughty dog.

For all its light-heartedness it’s a challenging play. In fact, often a play within a play. Rhyming couplets are written in tricky Shakespearean iambic pentameter. Its fast-moving action keeps the company on their toes.

It’s not surprising that Director Steve Illidge pondered where he would find a cast of 28 players who could act, sing, dance and swordfight. He needs them to get across Shakespeare’s beautiful poetry and prose. Making sure they do the Bard justice along with the perfect witty dialogue of Messrs Norman, Stoppard and Hall. Well he needn’t have worried. He found them. And the perfect Spot, the dog. Under his direction the whole company are fantastic.

Credit to Collins and Turner who meet the challenge of playing Will/Romeo and Viola/Juliet brilliantly. Their death scene as the ill-fated lovers will bring a tear to your eye.

But let’s not forget this is a very witty funny play. The comic timing of Henslow (Ian Carr), Fennyman (Peter Bing) Nurse (Sue Dale) and Burbage (Graham Muir) throughout is spot on. Not easy as they need to accommodate the audience’s laughter.

A final mention for the choreography of Carl Robinson-Edwards which helps set the scene and provide a foot stomping finale. It’s powerful and performed well by the whole company. 

Don’t miss this limited run. This is a feel-good fun production with some cracking actors. Towards the end playwright John Webster (Abdullah Henly) is told he’ll go far. Well, my prediction is that he will, along with the whole cast of this Shakespeare in Love.

Photo credits: Dave Morris

Reviewer: Caroline McKinlay

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