From the book to the theater. From the book to the screen. From the theater to the screen. These are adaptations to which we have become accustomed over the years. Many say it’s because the scriptwriters are now devoid of imagination; in a society in which the role of culture is bound to suffering and struggle for survival.
Fortunately, however, sometimes we are lucky enough to witness something extraordinary. Thanks to the courage of those who decide to go against the grain.
Thus, a successful film as Shakespeare in Love, winner of 65 film awards including Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe; a movie with a cast, which contained, among others, three of the greatest British male talent of the 90s (Colin Firth, Joseph Fiennes and Rupert Everett), with the addition of names such as Ben Affleck, Geoffrey Rush, Gwyneth Paltrow and Dame Judi Dench; was boldly transformed into the most beautiful play of the West End season.
Not only that. While this might seem impossible until a couple of months ago, the script was made all the more magical, irreverent and exciting than the one written for the screen.
Lee Hall has transformed the work of Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard giving it a new life and gave space to characters who in the movie version have been sacrificed as Kit Marlowe, John Webster and a magnificent Spot (the dog).
The cast has nothing to enviable to the 1998 one.
Tom Bateman (Da Vinci’s Demons) as William “Will” Shakespeare is handsome and terrific. And he not only has the ability to does not make the audience to regret the talent and beauty of Joseph Fiennes; but if he had had the good fortune to attend a casting for the role of Romeo opposite Leonard Whiting, Leonardo Di Caprio and Douglas Booth in the presence of Shakespeare, there is no doubt that it would come out triumphant.
Lucy Briggs-Owen as Viola De Lesseps is the concrete representation of freedom. With the dreamy and romantic look for the whole representation transports the audience into a world of love and sacrifice where the soul and the heart are destined to die young after living a full life; leaving an empty body to age in a distant country.
Anna Carteret as Queen Elizabeth is brilliant and outstanding and a comparison with an icon like Judy Dench would definitely inappropriate.
After eclipsed Colin Firth as Mr.Darcy last summer on the stage of the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park, also Rupert Everett has been made easily forgettable by the interpretation of David Oakes as Christopher “Kit” Marlowe. Oakes is certainly one of the best young British talent and his Marlowe is extraordinarily hilarious, suave and irreverent. But, the capacity of Oakes is to make this even with a simple gesture or a look, without the need to utter a single word.
Alistair Petrie (Rush) as Wessex is a comic joy.
Doug Rao (The Debt) with wig, in movements and in an ironic tone of voice reminds incredibly the best Jhonny Deep’s Jack Sparrow giving the play an irreplaceable touch of color in the role of Ned Alleyn that was played on the screen by an anonymous Ben Affleck.
Colin Ryan (Leonardo) as Webster is simply outstanding. Nothing to do with the street kid seen on the screen. Colin leaves nothing to chance; every expression, every posture, every syllable are intended to emphasize the mood of that tragic and bloody genius that will go far. It’s amazing how, in the ensemble scenes, his presence, albeit silent, however, attract the attention of the eye.
The direction by Declan Donnellan is simple and full of frame scenes that allow the audience, in the main steps, to focus its attention on the text.
The icing on the cake, however, is the crucial role played by the beautiful musical compositions in the Renaissance style by Paddy Cunneen and played under the direction of Tim Van Eyken by Elliott Rennie, Thomas Padden, Van Eyken himself and Charlie Tighe who deserves a special mention also for the stunning vocal timbre.
One only negative note; the feeling the show lacks something to make it memorable … wonder if that could be a brilliant scene between Marlowe and intelligent wolfhound Spot … who knows that at the end of the season, as has already happened in the past this emptiness will not be filled by a special behind the scenes.
There is much more to write about this extraordinary play and this cast. But there would be a risk to dampen the pleasure to the audience of seeing it with their own eyes.
There remains, therefore, that leave you with a suggestion for the female audience who will travel to the Noel Coward Theatre: don’t put on the mascara or the tears caused by the laughter that you will not able to hold will prevent you from totally enjoy this beautiful work.
“Besides, can a lady love happily with a bankside poet and player?”
“Yes, by God. Love knows nothing of rank or riverbank. It will spark between a Queen and the poor vagabond who plays the king. And their love should be mined by each. For love denied blights the soul we owe to God”