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Shakespeare In Love Malvern Festival Theatres ???? HHHH THIS is, of course, an adaptation for the stage of the film Shakespeare In Love (which I viewed at this very theatre in 1996) and quite naturally you wonder how on earth any theatre company could transfer the twists and turns and wonderful settings of Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard's original screenplay to the stage.

And yet, in a totally admirable way, this company of young and accomplished actors manage to bring the whole thing to life. The original structure has been adapted for the stage by Lee Hall and so you get plenty of the original humour which sends the evening along like a rocket explosion, peppered with anguished cries from a frantic Henslowe (the admirable Ian Hughes), of "Yes, Will, but where's the PLAY!?" as our hero, the similarly beleagured Will Shakespeare (Pierro Niel Mee), struggles to find a title and few words for his latest opus, called at least in this initial stage of its construction) "Romeo and Ethel The Pirate King's Daughter".

The stage is a revolve and so one scene segues easily into another, thus there are no awkward pauses.

The characters pass easily from bedroom to market place, from palace to the Globe, and the beloved characters of Marlowe (Edmund Kingsley, who does not take every chance offered to him), Lord Wessex, Shakespeare's Nemesis (Bill Wessex, who does even less with his chances) and Viola de Lesseps (Imogen Daines, who often seems to be unable to find the conflict and drama inherent in her role) come and go within the orbit of the Globe and we wait for the moment when the queen gets wind of our Will's doings and turns up to watch Romeo and Juliet (its final title fixed with a little help from the illfated Kit Marlowe).

But before that, as you may know from the film, Will has been helping himself to a posy from someone else's garden.

In fact, he has been busily falling in love with Viola de Lesseps, a well-born girl who wants to be an actor (at a time when women were not allowed on the stage) and who, having turned up at the Globe for an audition dressed as a boy, gets both the part of Juliet and bags the author as well.

Viola is part of a fiscal marriage arrangement made by her father with Lord Wessex. She is far above Will socially and financially.

The mayhem that ensues when Lord Wessex discovers he is being cuckolded is done very well, and yes, Queen Elizabeth does appear (in the person of Geraldine Alexander) and delivers that caustic line which got Judi Dench an Oscar.

Looking Viola up and down, things click into place and Elizabeth says to the humiliated and fuming Wessex: "She has been plucked my lord and not by you". Great stuff.

The stage pictures of Henslowe hounded by his creditiors and Will struggling with writer's block as he scribbles out the next sonnet, capture the atmosphere of a 17th century theatre very well, helped by good costumes.

Naturally this is not a TV shoot, so the company, if they are to convey the play to us, must project out to to the back stalls, and not mumble their lines upstage.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Nov 1, 2018
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