Pros: Original direction, well considered script and outstanding acting.
Cons: The rushed ending.
This play about the young William Shakespeare’s life is fittingly set in The Rose Playhouse, just around the corner from The Globe. Having never been to this atmospheric venue before, the archaeological site of this well preserved Tudor theatre made for the perfect setting for this production.
Unfolds Theatre here tell the story of how a young Will (played superbly by Sam Veck), tormented by his talent and the perfect words he can never quite seem to find, embarks on his journey to become the literary icon William Shakespeare.
Not one of the actors stands out more than the other as each one of them throws their heart and soul into their respective characters. Aside from Veck’s monumental performance as the young Will himself, Katherine Moran portrays Anne with moving emotion and vulnerability. Beatrice Lawrence is particularly talented in her convincing depiction of Olivia Burbage and Ronnie Yorke is exceptionally funny (I mean, really laugh out loud funny) as Richard Burbage. Charlie Woodward plays various characters, but is especially memorable as the Earl of Southampton – his dance scene with Shakespeare is powerful and beautiful.
The set design is bare, with the wonder of The Rose Playhouse providing plenty of atmosphere. There is some clever yet very simple lighting, and use of a single box to portray a myriad of settings. Really, the magic of the stage, the enchanted and troubled waters of Shakespeare’s mind, and the setting of 16th Century England is created by the actors.
A special mention must go to the writing and direction by Victoria Baumgartner. The script is very well written, seamless and captivating, with nuanced and lovely parallels between the narrative of young Will’s life and the stories and characters found in his later works. The combination of dance, song, music and acting makes for a rich production and leaves no space for boredom. The only part that lets this production down, and I feel like I say this in so many reviews, is the rushed ending. It feels like there is too much narrative to fit into this 80-minute play.
This unique production blew me away – I was moved to tears twice (and that doesn’t happen very often). Just like any Shakespeare play, it is full of comedy and tragedy, and touches on universal and eternal themes: the plight of female equality is one that particularly struck a chord with me. Go and see this production to gain an insight into the young Will’s life and the torment of a poet wrestling with the demons of genius.
Writer: Victoria Baumgartner
Director: Victoria Baumgartner
Producers: Will & Compagnie and Unfolds Theatre
Booking Until: 21 April 2018
Box Office: 020 7261 9565
Booking Link: http://www.roseplayhouse.org.uk/events/event/will-eight-lost-years-young-william-shakespeares-life-victoria-baumgartner-2018-04-04/