The talented associate West End director, Alexandra Spencer-Jones (Action to the Word) is known for her physical theatre and musical productions such as Six and Clockwork Orange. So, when the American writer, Mary Jane Schaefer, approached her to direct Upstart! she was both surprised, flattered and a little fearful. It is a gentle play and a perfect play.
One of a trilogy Schaefer, has created about the Shakespeare family, Upstart! will delight fans of the Bard.
First given a reading at the National Arts Club in New York in 2014, the storyline explores the plight of women, then and now. There is no preaching. But there is a vivid awareness of the modes of suffering and paralysis caused by lack of education and confinement to the domestic domain, where dying children and intransigent husbands seem the norm. Yet in Judith’s case there is something else that complicates the pain. She is her father’s daughter, continually eager for experience, comprehending all the emotions involved in particular situations, and possessed of a sharp self-protective capacity for witty self-enjoyment that almost compensates for a minimal education—except that she cannot but envy her father’s freedom to live out what his imagination produces. She chooses for her spouse a “mere” tapster because he has the roguish qualities she associates with her father, only to learn that he also shares Shakespeare’s discomfort with domesticity. The utter failure of all her dreams, however, cannot ultimately shake the capacious imagination she shares with her father. http://www.schaeferonshakespeare.com/blog
It is beautifully crafted. Based upon fact, it is a fictional rendition of what the Stratford Shakespeare’s might have been like as a family.
Judith (Susannah May) tells us her version of events with a sharp wit while her younger self is represented by a jaunty and captivating Rachel Kitts.
It is a quality script and deserves great casting. The lighting by Charlie Morgan Jones is excellent, and the clever set it has been furnished with works on any stage. Madddy Mutch Productions has picked a winner here.
Despite the small stage, this cast moves seamlessly in and out. It will be going traveling after this run.
Luke Millard as William Shakespeare drew a tear from my eye. The casting overall was perfect. Each of these strong professional actors inhabited their parts powerfully. They could sing and play music. I love it when you get the whole package.
Reviewer: Kathleen Mansfield
Reviewed: 5th August 2023
North West End UK Rating: