BWW Review: SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, Theatre Royal Bath

BWW Review: SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, Theatre Royal BathBWW Review: SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, Theatre Royal BathMarc Norman and Tom Stoppard's Oscar-winning Shakespeare in Love was first adapted for the stage in 2014, and hailed as a triumph on the West End.

Four years on, a new production sets out on a UK tour, and proves a delight from start to end.

Young Will Shakespeare is suffering a serious case of writer's block. With a deadline looming, patrons disgruntled and his well of inspiration run dry, all seems lost.

That is, until he meets Viola de Lesseps, a spirited merchant's daughter determined to fulfil her dream of being onstage, and the two begin a passionate affair.

Phillip Breen's direction is bursting with warmth, wit and energy. The jokes come thick and fast, but always feel well judged and never at the expense of pace; the action moves along nicely and the humour is balanced beautifully with the romance at the heart of the piece.

Max Jones's cleverly compact design also serves the atmosphere well. Its centerpiece is a wooden structure with a balcony and props are interspersed throughout, and scene changes are signified by a revolving stage. Though minimalist, it feels incredibly vibrant as the actors run, dance and duel their way through Ayse Tashkiran's slick movement.

Paddy Cunneen's score is by turns joyful and haunting, complemented by Tina MacHugh's striking mix of lighting techniques: candles are wonderfully effective, as are the shifts in colours.

Aesthetically, then, the production already feels charming and atmospheric, but it is an incredibly talented cast who hold the play to an even higher standard.

Pierro Niel-Mee is a joy to watch as Will, blending easy and likeable charm with tremendous depth and vulnerability. Joined by Imogen Daines as a unexpectedly feisty Viola, the pair demonstrate wonderfully palpable chemistry.

Humour abounds with Ian Hughes as Henslowe and an often-scene stealing turn from Rowan Polonski as Ned Alleyn. Edmund Kingsley's Kit Marlowe boasts fantastic charisma and swagger, and Bill Ward a cooly manipulative Wessex. Some of the cast even doubled up in another role, and their infectious enthusiasm was abundantly clear throughout.

The film version is 20 years old this year, but this new production feels as playful and refreshing as ever.

Shakespeare in Love runs at Theatre Royal Bath until 13 October

Photo Credit: Pete Le May

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From This Author Kerrie Nicholson

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