Review: Shakespeare In Love at Theatre 41

Every time I go to Theatre 41, I am impressed by the versatility of the acting space and this visit was no exception. The stage has been constructed to represent The Globe Theatre, with an inner stage, balcony, and stage trap. Even the lighting approximates the flickering light of candles. It is a great transformation and the designer, Robert Readman, is to be complimented.

By Angie Millard

Photos by Matthew Kitchen Photography

Musicians in a Minstrels Gallery add atmosphere, playing and singing throughout.

But what of the show itself? Generally, I am not a great fan of plays derived from film because cinematic tricks and effects cannot be duplicated in live theatre. However, this play manages to do something different by filling the stage with a crowd of actors who never try to pretend this is anything other than a playhouse.

The story of Shakespeare suffering from writer’s block and surrounded by impresarios who are in as much debt as he is, takes precedence. A young noble woman wants to be an actor, something which was banned until The Restoration period. She auditions, Shakespeare falls in love, and is then inspired to write Romeo and Juliet. 

There’s a bit of plot confusion about girls acting as boys, a sweet love affair and the fury of a cheated bridegroom, before the ill-matched couple leave Shakespeare behind to sail to Virginia. In the meantime, the audience are swept along by the energy and bravura of the ensemble.

My favourite scenes were definitely those between George Stagnell as Shakespeare and Adam Price as Kit Marlowe. Their easy friendship and boyish insouciance was captivating and I think I have a bit of a crush on Adam Price. Sanna Jeppson as Viola, Shakespeare’s love interest, plays the ingenue perfectly and Beryl Nairn as her nurse is equally convincing. There is strong support from Ian Giles as Henslowe, Tony Froud as Burbage, Robert Readman as Ned Alleyn, Neil Foster as Tilney and Andrew Isherwood as a stage struck Fennyman. Isherwood was particularly touching in his eagerness to play a bit part in the tragedy.

Add to this a formidable Queen Elizabeth played by Joy Warner and a peevish, cuckolded bridegroom played by Jim Paterson and you have a perfect mix.

May I also compliment whoever created the ferocious and threadbare dog puppet? Sheer genius!

Mark Hird has created a popular success. The costumes hired from the Royal Shakespeare Company are beautiful and complete the final effect.

If you’re after pure entertainment go no further than Theatre 41 Monkgate.

Shakespeare In Love was performed on Monday 4 April 2022 and is running at 41 Monkgate until 9 April 2022. The Director is Mark Hird, Designer Robert Readman and Musical Director Natalie Walker. Costumes are by Jo Hird and Robert Readman. The Producer is Robert Readman.