With numerous accolades, including an Oscar Winning film performance and the acquisition of seven Academy awards, ‘Shakespeare in Love’ is performed this week at The Altrincham Garrick Playhouse. Based upon the screenplay by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard and adapted for stage by Lee Hall, this popular romantic comedy performed by the Garrick Ensemble is produced and directed by Joseph Meighan.
For those who have not seen the film, the story is essentially about a certain young playwright, ‘Will Shakespeare’ (Loui Quelcutti) who meets the wealthy ‘Violet de Lesseps’ (Ciara- Alexandra Booker) who dreams of becoming an actor. The two fall deeply in love, however Violet’s father, ‘Sir Robert de Lesseps’ (Paul O’Dwyer) insisted she married Lord Wessex (Tom Broughton) and so a love affair between Will and Violet begins, as does the story of Romeo and Juliet. The story has a sense of the fact that the theatre scene in London in 1593, when the play was set, would probably be equivalent to a modern-day West End in some respects and that the themes of huge egos and script changes, along with the undercurrent of it also being about making money for many are still highlighted in today’s theatres, all be it on a very different scale.
Bookers role as ‘Viola de Lesseps’ would seem to be incredibly well cast. Booker commanded the stage with a delicate, ethereal yet also a forceful presence. Her passionate and intense love of both Shakespeare as a lover and his poetry came across with clarity. Shakespeare played by Quelcutti demonstrated the part of a somewhat apprehensive, nervous yet passionate playwright to perfection and his relationship with Booker was faultless.
An abundance of energy on stage was also displayed by the roles of Hugh Fennyman (Peter Brassington), Ned Alleyn (Sam Evans) and Richard Burbage (Hector Macduff). Each of these actors, with no exception, could easily take a lead role and are born for the stage. At times it was hard not to have flashes of ‘Blackadder’ and even the more recent ‘Upstart Crow’ in the mind during parts of the more comedic performances – in a very good way, as the comedy was fast and was delivered well amongst the main story line.
With too many cast members to mention one special mention must also go to Fiona Primrose who played ‘Queen Elizabeth I’. Her presence on stage and her sharp, clipped tones carried off this part to perfection.
It would be remiss not to mention the outstanding costume design of the entire cast and Mike Shaw and his team must be applauded for the astonishing yet highly impressive Elizabethan costume. Without a doubt this added to the richness and authenticity of the entire production.
A surprise ‘actor’ in relation to the Queen loving a dog on stage, was the appearance of ‘Ness’ a Cairn Terrier who played the role of ‘Spot’ very well indeed, right down to the Elizabethan collar she wore – more importantly she was handled with good care, professionalism and confidence by the cast. Definitely a crowd pleaser!
From the offset it must be said that the entire ambience of this performance was that it was full of energy and enthusiasm. The entire Garrick ensemble must be congratulated for such an uplifting, professional, inspiring performance. The talent on the stage was outstanding.
Joe Meighan (Director) must have a final mention. This extremely talented Director has without a doubt pulled another masterpiece out of the bag and ‘Shakespeare in Love’ can now be added to his many credits. Having seen the film, audience members may consider that a stage version of this play is preferable to the original film after seeing this version.
‘Shakespeare In Love’ is on at The Altrincham Garrick Playhouse until 11th February and tickets can be purchased via the box office at www.altrinchamgarrick.co.uk
Reviewer: Angela Kelly
Reviewed: 6th February 2023
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★