West End Review: Shakespeare in Love
Shall I compare this play to its movie equivalent? Thou art not my favorite adaptation, as much as it could have been. I'm not quite sure what I was expecting when I went to see the stage version of one of my favorite films, but I'm not sure if I expected this. With any cross-platform adaptations, there is a lot of change to make it more suitable for the medium, but transferring this Tom Stoppard screenplay onto the stage should've been easy (with Stoppard being first and foremost a playwright more often than a screenwriter). I found the entire play to be very rushed, as if they were trying to fit the entire plot of the film into the span of 2 and a half hours, which usually works as a good length for a play, but with a plot that is slightly complicated like Shakespeare in Love's is, I wish the information had come at the audience a bit slower. Let's just say that as someone who knows the film very well, I was even confused at what was happening.
Now, I shall get to what I did enjoy about this piece of theatre. The stage design incorporated the Shakespearean feel of the late 1500s and early 1600s theatres we don't conform to any longer. Using the stage as sort of an allusion to the globe, the multiple levels made out of wooden pathways, definitely gave feel to the era the play is set in. And with this play, "All the world's a stage," truly applies, because the way it was set up makes it easily transferable from a story space to a theatre space when needed in the plot. The costumes were period-appropriate and beautiful. The acting was also very top notch, especially from Tom Bateman, who played the titular character. The night I went, Lucy Briggs-Owen, who played Viola, had very obviously taken ill with her voice, which lead to a very scratchy, strained performance, but she still played the part with conviction.
Some of the changes made to the plot were things I did enjoy. In the stage version, Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe are actually very close friends, unlike in the movie, which gave them a deeper relationship I enjoyed watching. They made good use of the repetitive line, "and a bit with a dog," which made it much funnier later, when there actually was an entertaining bit with a dog. Some scenes were switched around, giving a bigger build up to when Viola reveals she's been masquerading as Thomas Kent to be able to act on stage. Overall, it was quite a fun play, and I was happy I got to see it, and a different way of putting forth the story than I was used to.