After a successful career in London as a playwright and actor, William Shakespeare has returned home to his wife in Stratford. This play takes place over the course of one late night, when his wife cannot sleep and neither can Shakespeare. Constantly absent-minded, he only comes to life when he quotes lines from his own plays or when he quibbles with his wife’s words to get out of an argument.
This new play by Philip Whitchurch is an absolutely heart-warming imagining of the life of Shakespeare and his wife Anne in the years of the bard’s retirement.
This new play by Philip Whitchurch is an absolutely heart-warming imagining of the life of Shakespeare and his wife Anne in the years of the bard’s retirement. Sally Edwards gives a magnificent performance as Anne. Her dry, belittling comments towards Will’s childish obsession with his manuscripts draw hearty laughs from the knowing audience. She shows glimpses of sharp-tongued Beatrice from Much Ado about Nothing and the defiant Kate from The Taming of the Shrew. She also reveals that she has penned much of Shakespeare’s poetry herself: lines of Romeo and Juliet were lifted directly from her mouth when she and Will were in their early days of courtship. Above all, Anne shows a tremendous amount of warmth and love, getting Will back on his feet when he despairs at being “out of fashion.” The often maligned Anne Hathaway shines forth in this play as witty and warm, Shakespeare’s courage and pillar.
Philip Whitchurch is a seasoned Shakespearean actor, having worked with the RSC. When he breaks into lines from Shakespeare’s famous soliloquies, the audience are delighted, first at how the lines are fit into the context of the play, but more so at how wonderfully Whitchurch recites the lines. His speech is Elizabethan, warm, sweet and rhotic.
Being a play consisting entirely of a conversation between two people, there are some moments when the play feels a bit slow, but overall these are few and far between. Peppered with historical references - to other playwrights, or theatrical customs of the day - the play is wonderfully written and beautifully acted. If you have ever loved Shakespeare’s work, this show will remind you why.