BWW Reviews: WHAT YOU WILL, Apollo Theatre, Sept 18 2012
Actor Roger Rees zooms through his life in Shakespeare - from auditioning for the Royal Shakespeare Company at this very theatre as a young lad, to playing mute extras and delivering some of theatre's greatest monologues - in this one-act, one-man show.
Rees is a natural storyteller, and is at his most relaxed and vivacious when delivering old gems from RSC folklore. Personal stories switch quickly to iconic monologues from Hamlet, Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet (a highlight being his fussy east-ender take on the Nurse), and the lighting reflects this by going from a warm, stories-by-the-fireplace glow to sudden dusk, dawn or uplighting.
For those not familiar with Rees' career (as well as his Shakespeare exploits, he starred in the RSC's Nicholas Nickleby in 1980 as well as a guest role in Cheers and a spell in Waiting for Godot with Ian McKellen in 2010) there is still plenty of humour and trivia to be enjoyed. Highlights included his tribute to some of Shakespeare's 'impossible' lines to act, the Hokey Cokey in iambic pentameter and a James Thurber tale where Macbeth becomes a whodunnit.
Rees' ease with the audience - not to mention his instant recall of so many wordy passages - is impressive; you feel you have been invited to dinner with a particularly chatty, flamboyant and fascinating host. The show is short, however (at 90 minutes with no interval), so you may feel short-changed if you choose to venture into the upper end of the ticket price range. My guest and I got to discussing one-man shows, and came to the conclusion that it's a matter of confidence - if the actor loves the concept, is completely committed and, above all, charming, the audience will relax and jump aboard. This is exactly what Roger Rees brings to the material: an overflowing love of acting, Shakespeare and storytelling that is truly endearing. If you love words, know your Shakespeare (and Dickens, and history's greatest actors) and fancy an evening in the company of the Bard - a sombre bust of him, at least - this is the show for you.