SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE. Two-act comedy adapted by Lee Hall from Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard’s screenplay. Direction: Greg Karvellas. Musical Director: Charl-Johan Lingenfelder. Choreography: Kristin Wilson. Fight Choreography: Jon Keevy. Sets: Paul Wills. Lighting: Wolf Britz. Costumes: Birrie le Roux and Widaad Albertus. At The Fugard Theatre.
PICTURES: Claude Barnardo
SHEILA CHISHOLM reviews
Why we mere mortals who can’t differentiate between an adverb and a proverb believe Shakespeare’s words flew effortlessly from brain to quill, to parchment to publisher, is daft. He may, through immortal works, feature larger than life, but he was mortal. And as such suffered similar human vicissitudes – he fell in and out of love and (occasionally) writing block plagued him.
Or so English playwright Lee Hall, in his adaptation of Shakespeare in Love would let us suppose. In this wistful comedy, a young, cash-strapped “Will” Shakespeare (Daniel Mpilo Richards), is struggling to source a decent plot for his latest play Romeo and Ethel, the Pirates Daughter.
Quotes from the Bard’s plays
Although a lively, energetic personality, Will’s efforts engaging his mind beyond “Shall I compare thee …” aren’t taking him anywhere, so he turns to riff-raff buddies for aid. Wearing rag-a-bag Elizabethan costumes they’re a comic bunch. They appear dim-witted yet, in conversational manner, toss out quotes from the Bard’s plays, which is amusing if well versed with Shakespeare’s writings.
From Will’s band, fellow playwright Christopher “Kit” Marlow (Armand Aucamp) is most helpful, and most “normal.” As for the others, well there is broke, dandified impresario Henslowe (Darron Araujo). He owes money to Fennyman (John Maytham) for financing his plays. Fiery Fennyman wants repayment … now. Henslowe, desperate for a good play, pressurizes Will to deliver … now. Then there’s Richard Burbage (Mark Elderkin). He’s Henslowe’s rival theatre owner who looms large in the battle between the two theatres.
In 16th century Elizabethan times laws forbade women actors. Tilney (Walter van Dyk) aggressively demands this law be adhered to. When Will eventually completes Romeo and Juliet teenage Sam (Sven Ruygrok), auburn wig, grubby white dress over his daily wear, is Juliet. As 2000 wait for Romeo and Juliet’s premier, Sam’s voice breaks. No herbal gargling lifts it back to boy soprano. Without a Juliet, the show is doomed.
Birrie le Roux costumes
Enter beautiful Lady Viola Lesseps (Roxane Hayward). Supported by her fuss pot Nurse (Lucy Tops) Viola had disguised herself as Thomas Kent so as to work in theatre. Even in disguise, Hayward’s gentle voice and manners attract Will. Discovering Thomas is really delicious Viola – Shakespeare’s in love. She proves his Calliope, and, heedless of rgw laws, her appearance as Juliet saves the play. So too does stammering Mr Wabash (Louis Viljoen), who suddenly finds enough confidence to perfectly deliver Romeo and Juliet’s famous opening lines.
Others contributing to this humorous approach to Shakespeare’s life were Robyn Scott as blowsy Kate and crabby Queen. Her regal crinoline, heart-shaped wig likened her to Sir John Tenniel’s illustration of Alice in Wonderland’s Queen of Hearts. Dean Balie played creepy John Webster – a future 17th century playwright.
A tale featuring Shakespeare must have a villain. Jason K Ralph provides that as Lord Wessex, an extreme chauvinist ready to marry exquisite Viola – for money.
Played out in Paul Wills’ multi-purpose set, Widaad Albertus and Birrie le Roux’s exotic costumes designate Elizabethan social levels. As do Charl-Johan Lingenfelder’s music and Kristin Wilson’s period choreography.
Top marks to Jon Keevy for exciting fight choreography, and director Greg Karvellas who held this 20 member cast together without missing a beat.
Cape Town Theatre Guide: https://weekendspecial.co.za/stage-on-the-boards/
What: Shakespeare in Love Fugard
Where, when: Fugard Theatre from 14 August 2018
Shakespeare in Love tickets: R200 – R350, www.thefugard.com, 021 461 4554, www.computicket.co.za
Fugard Theatre Cape Town what’s on: http://www.thefugard.com