‘Shakespeare in Love’
Following my holiday in Rome, I went straight from the airport to central London to see a performance of the brilliant Shakespeare in Love as part of my birthday present from my boyfriend.
The story is taken from the Oscar-winning film (which I watched at school in year 8 – I think!) but it felt like it belonged on the stage. The set was like an Elizabethan theatre (and everything else too: props, costumes, musicians). This, combined with the plot line, meant that it had parts which were theatre within theatre and plays within a play! Eeek, my favourite!
This was a funny play – I didn’t think it would be as funny as it was! One of my favourite moments were when the rear staging moved backwards and forwards, and in doing so changed the setting of the scene to either ‘backstage’ or ‘onstage’ of Shakespeare’s theatre. Another clever moment was the creation of a boat on stage: the production used very simple sets and props, so this was created out of just benches and stools and other actors sloshed buckets of water around to create the sound of the river. (So simple but so clever!) The actors gave such realistic performances that you began to look past the simplicity and believe they really were on a boat. (This made me think: it’s so easy to forget how much more limited the theatre is than the cinema.)
The acting throughout the play was very good – the character of Marlowe was my favourite, but the best performance (for me) was by the actor playing the title character, Shakespeare. He gave a truly powerful and believable performance, full of emotion, passion and energy.
‘Love Labours Won’ & Stratford-Upon-Avon
The second half of my present took us to Stratford-Upon-Avon: birthplace and hometown of Shakespeare (are you sensing a theme yet?). We spent the day walking around, saw a performance of the RSC’s Love Labours Won (or more commonly Much Ado About Nothing), then a tour of the theatre and backstage afterwards. Naturally I was very excited!
Love Labour’s Won was a play I knew very little about, other than it’s a comedy and has a character called Beatrice. As it turns out she was my favourite character: she’s strong, witty and independent – a formidable combination. The staging was more complex than Shakespeare in Love – being an RSC production and in an incredible theatre (it’s a thrust stage so the audience is wrapped around the action). As a result there were lots of set changes – being quite Stanislavski in style, and set in the 1920s after the end of WW1. But it was a beautiful set with gorgeous costumes. (The 1920s is possibly my favourite era ever in Britain.)
The acting performances were brilliant from everyone. They kept the audience in stitches despite the Shakesprearean language – which I think speaks a lot for their talent, to make something so unusual understood by everyone. There were also some hilarious comic moments with movement – I just couldn’t stop laughing!
My day in Stratford itself was lovely: it’s a gorgeous town (even walking through it at 6 o’clock in the evening, in the dark!) The tour around the theatre was also great fun: our guide was obviously hugely enthusiastic about the theatre and kept us entertained and interested throughout.
So overall I’ve had a fantastic couple of days – and you’ll be glad to know (maybe) that my love for Shakespeare is as great as before! I’d definitely recommend seeing both of these productions if you can!