Pros: A wonderful cast sweeping the audience with infectious enthusiasm.
Cons: Those unfamiliar with Shakespeare may still struggle with unique rhythm of language used.
The work of William Shakespeare has long been a gift to generations of writers, providing a glorious colour palette of plots, themes and quotes breathing life into countless films and plays. This play’s title was lifted from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 60: ‘if he thrive and I be cast away the worst was this: my love was my decay.’ This provides the inspiration for Matte O’Brien’s play within a play. It tells of a great war scorching the earth and destroying everything in its path; economies have collapsed and money is worthless. A plague has ripped through the population causing people to lose limbs and appendages. Amidst the chaos, three sisters Odette, Rue and Agatha run a gruesome sideline through a pub with the dubious Bones in attendance. A young actor, Will unwittingly wanders in and meets Chris, a disfigured poet.
We surmise that Will and Chris are William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, legendary sparring partners at the dawn of English literature. The story cannily draws on their relationship and the long held belief that Marlowe penned many of the plays attributed to Shakespeare. Legend has it that Marlowe died in May 1593 from a knife wound above the right eye. Marlovians believe that his death was faked to avoid prosecution for heresy. Chris intriguingly appears with scarring down the right side of his face and a false eye. Unexpected consequences flow from the ensuing battle of wits between Will and Chris.
A black screen with white copper plate writing offered a brief introduction to each scene, much like a silent movie, which heightened the atmosphere of an eerie space within the excellent Hope Theatre. The script is lively and dynamic, told in both verse and prose it loses no impact as it runs through some of the Bard’s finest moments. The play offers a tantalising glimpse of Shakespeare the man rather than the playwright, and questions whether he borrowed more than he created. The cast were outstanding, particularly Robin Hellier as Chris and Ben Clifford as Will, who both maintained palpable tension as protagonists of the piece. The mix of verse and prose may be off putting for some, but as with any Bard inspired piece it demands open ears to truly appreciate the skill of Shakespeare…or was it Marlowe?!
Written and Directed by: Matte O’Brien
Producer: Wild Goose Chase in association with New Room Theatre
Box Office: 0333 666 3366
Booking link: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/event/146045
Booking until: 26 November 2016