‘Young Will Shakespeare has writer’s block… the deadline for his new play is fast approaching; he’s struggling to finish the first line of a sonnet and he’s in dire need of inspiration. Then he meets the beguiling Viola de Lesseps, the beautiful daughter of a wealthy merchant. Viola is prepared to do anything – including risking the regal disapproval of Queen Elizabeth I – to fulfil her illicit dream of performing on the London stage and pursuing a passionate affair with the greatest playwright of the age’.
‘Shakespeare in Love‘ depicts an imaginary love affair between William Shakespeare and Viola de Lesseps, an affair which moves him to write what will become the greatest love story of all time: Romeo and Juliet. Expect cross-dressing, mistaken identities, enmity between rival playhouses, star-crossed lovers and balconies, in a play in which, for Will Shakespeare, as in all great romantic comedies, ‘the course of true love never did run smooth’…
A new production of this critically acclaimed play is to open at Theatre Royal Bath on Thursday 4th October 2018, ahead of a UK tour to Nottingham, Malvern, Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh and Chichester, with further venues to be announced.
Inspired by the Oscar-winning film of the same name (which starred Judi Dench, Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow), the production is based on the original screenplay by Marc Newman and Tom Stoppard, and produced by Eleanor Lloyd Productions and Theatre Royal Bath Productions, by special arrangement with Disney Theatrical Group and Sonia Friedman Productions.
This stage production will be directed by Phillip Breen, whose recent direction of ‘The Hypocrite’ as part of Hull City of Culture 2017, which ran at the RSC’s Swan Theatre, achieved great success, with design by Max Jones, lighting by Tina MacHugh, sound by Dyfan Jones, movement by Ayse Tashkiran, music by Paddy Cunneen and with Associate Producers Rebecca Stafford, Eilene Davidson and Mark Puddle.
The production will star Pierro Niel-Mee as Will Shakespeare, Imogen Daines as Viola, Rob Edwards as Fennyman, Geraldine Alexander as the Queen, Edmund Kingsley as Kit Marlowe, Bill Ward as Wessex, Ian Hughes as Henslowe, Giles Taylor as Tilney and De Lesseps, Edward Harrison as Burbage and Philip Labey as Sam. The cast also includes Rowan Polonski as Ned Alleyn/Catling, Kevin N Golding as Lambert/Wabash, Joshua Richards as Frees/Ralph, Jonathan Blaydon as Nol/Valentine, Richard Rowe McGhie as Adam, Rosalind Steele as Molly, Toby Webster as Peter/Robin and Jazmine Wilkinson as Webster/Mistress Quickly.
The film premiered in 1998, and went on to win seven Academy Awards, including Best Screenplay. Adapted for the stage by Lee Hall in July 2014, with music by Paddy Cuneen, the production, described by The Guardian as “a love letter to theatre”, opened at the Noel Coward Theatre on London’s West End, to both public and critical acclaim:
“Funny, often genuinely moving, and generates a glow you could warm your hands by…The best British comedy since One Man, Two Guvnors and deserves equal success”. (Daily Telegraph).
“Marvellously fluid, riotously funny, and often intensely, even startlingly poignant…This may be, in part at least, a comedy about Shakespeare falling in love; but joking aside, it could just make you fall, all over again, in love with Shakespeare”. (Chicago Tribune).
The play is one that cleverly satirises the very business of theatre, a business of “insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster”.
However, it is chiefly concerned with “poetry… And adventure. And love. Love above all”.
By exploring Shakespeare’s creative process, doing so in the form of a fictional account imagining his romantic relationship to this character Viola, the play taps into the emotions of a man who could “make love out of words as a potter makes cups of clay. Love that overthrows empires. Love that binds two hearts together come hellfire and brimstone”.
‘Shakespeare in Love’ is a celebration, an exultation, a reverence, of love, “love that overthrows life. Unbiddable, ungovernable, like a riot in the heart, and nothing to be done, come ruin or rapture. Love as there has never been in a play”.
Theatre Royal Bath, 4th – 13th October – BUY TICKETS
Nottingham Theatre Royal, 16th – 20th October – BUY TICKETS
Malvern Festival Theatre, 23rd – 27th October – BUY TICKETS
Oxford Playhouse, 30th October – 3rd November – BUY TICKETS
Cambridge Arts Theatre, 5th – 10th November – BUY TICKETS
King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, 12th – 17th November – BUY TICKETS
Chichester Festival Theatre, 20th – 24th November – BUY TICKETS