LOVE IN SHAKESPEARE: Phil Hemming.
Heartbreak Productions: Tour Info 01926 430307 www.heartbreakproductions.co.uk.
Runs: 2h 30m: one interval.
Performance times: Mostly 7.30pm but varies with venue.
Review: Alan Geary: Nottingham: 28th August.
Rickety, but the best elements are excellent.
We’re at a fund-raising Open Talent Nite in the irredeemably down-market Shakespeare Arms when Chris, a mysterious stranger with a brief case, a lovelorn educated fellow, turns up for a pint. Under his magical influence each of the predictably run of the mill acts is transformed into a romantic scene from the Shakespeare canon.
What’s more, the couple who run the dump – he a boorish type with Asbo written all over him; she beautiful, romantic and unfulfilled – have their clapped out marriage put back on track.
Love in Shakespeare – the title is presumably a take on that of the nineties film as well as an allusion to the setting – is an unusual touring production. There are some wonderful moments in this show – it’s hard to call it a play – but they are held together by some fairly pedestrian stuff.
It’s a rickety contrivance – at one point the text explicitly concedes this – and it results in a bizarre mix: particularly in the first half, tedious sub-Eastenders dialogue is interspersed with some of the most sublime lines in world drama.
It places great demands on the cast of five but director Maddy Kerr fields some strong actors. Except when it comes to the musical element, they cope much better than adequately; and delivery of Shakespeare’s lines is often magnificent. Neil Jennings (the mysterious Chris), who also gives us a sonnet or two, is especially fine.
He and the others, Paul O’Neil, Emma Burn, Paul Billing and Alexandra Turchyn, make you wish they were doing a full-length Othello, Winter’s Tale or Much Ado instead of excerpts.
There’s a somewhat illogical gay twist at the end involving Chris (who turns out to be guess who) and Piers Gaveston that seems tasteless and out of kilter with the rest of the proceedings.
So it’s a not an entirely satisfactory evening, but the best elements of this Heartbreak Productions offering are excellent.
Director: Maddy Kerr.
Designer: Amy Yardley.
Musical Advisor: Andy Guthrie.