Shakes in Love


Can you love a player?


Indeed, I can! A few, actually.

To be honest, I don’t really remember much of the movie of the same name, so I cannot compare thee to a summer’s day two. But I really enjoyed the play. However, since I’m no theatre critic, instead, I’ll make like Maria von Trapp and simply remember my favorite things from last night’s preview of Shakespeare in Love at the Noël Coward Theatre (a few spoilers ahead):

The Cast

  • Ned Alleyn (played by Doug Rao) – I really enjoyed this character. Despite what seemed a large ego at the beginning, he was a friend to Will and accepted the non-starring role of Mercutio, although it was clear this was not what he was used to, and he proved to be an endearing character. (Also, I liked his eyeliner. I kept thinking about Jack Sparrow and swooning.)
  • Marlowe (played by David Oakes) – You just feel so sad for Marlowe! The way he helps Will – is he that good of a friend? What other motive could he possibly have? Was Marlowe really the voice behind Shakespeare? He is a sweet character that I couldn’t help but pull for.
  • Viola (played by Lucy Briggs-Owen) – I really liked the way that Viola/Thomas Kent was played. The character was developed so well – her love of Shakespeare’s words and knowing them by heart from her first appearance on stage made it completely believable that she could just walk on as Juliet when crisis later struck and she had to be a last-minute replacement. Although I know I should suspend reality when I watch works of fiction whether on stage or on screen, I sometimes struggle to see how something could be at all realistic – but this was not the case at all here. I think the build-up of this character to the point of being able to walk on and deliver lines with bravada was completely believable.
  • John Webster (played by Colin Ryan) – this reference (when a name was given to this character who had been present throughout the play somewhere near the end of the show) went over my head, but I could infer what it was that John Webster wrote about. And the character, though supposed to be a bit crazy, ended up saving the day a little, which I was proud of noticing before it was brought to light, and he really stole a soft spot in my heart as well.
  • Burbage (played by David Ganly) – A rough character at first, there’s always something that softens a person, huh? When this character was given a small role in the play to distract him from other things, he was thrilled. And it was adorable. And he had a special hat that would just fit the part. Love.
  • Wabash (played by Patrick Osborne) – The character evolution here as well was built up so well and when this perennial stammerer was finally triumphant when it was time to take the stage, the whole theatre was so happy for him. It was heartwarming (and I obviously cried).
  • Queen Elizabeth (played by Anna Carteret) – This queen was so sassy (which I loved) and also obsessed with dogs (did I miss something in history class?). But my most favorite thing about her was her outfits. I wish I could wear those giant hoop skirts and vertigo-inducing collars.
  • The quartet (Tim van Eyken, Charlie Tighe, Elliott Rennie, Thomas Padden) – They sang (beautifully) and they provided gorgeous music to perfectly match scenes. The sound was beautiful and almost my favorite part of the whole show.
  • The set – The scene changes, both the set and the rearrangement of cast, were seamless. I really loved the set, so accurately evocative of the Globe. Another favorite part of mine was when they set up a ‘boat’ to row across the water – whilst Will, Viola and the rowing boatman swished and swayed as they ‘crossed the water,’ two members of the cast sat just to the side and appeared to be washing clothes – dipping cloth into a bucket of water and wringing it out. But when you concentrated on the main part of the scene and forgot that two launderers were to the side, the effect was that you saw the oars moving and the actors swaying and you heard the water lapping against the oars! It was amazing. Perfectly choreographed with position of the oar and the sound of the water. I just thought this was such a genius touch and absolutely loved it.

Basically, I ended up loving it.

I had accidentally seen the running time when checking the start time earlier in the day (I usually avoid this, because although I love watching plays, I tend to get a bit restless if they’re too long), so after a pretty discouraging first 15-20 minutes where Will was just a daft idiot who couldn’t complete a thought without the help of Christopher Marlowe, and, there was a lot of time spent talking about a dog (both of which the rest of the audience seemed to love..), I wasn’t too optimistic and was convinced I’d be ready to head at the interval – but then things started to look up. By the end, I was blubbering. I had forgotten how much I love the lines of Romeo and Juliet specifically and how well I knew them. The lines and the players saying them honestly moved me and the cast does a great job of getting you to invest in the show.

Definitely recommend! Showing until 25 October 2014.

Seat notes: Row A of the Grand Circle (2nd tier) for ~£20 a piece were really good seats for a really good price. (especially compared to the cheapie seats (~£10) on the side where the view is really restricted and you have to do a lot of leaning only to see part of the stage.)

And PS Good food options nearby:


  • Barrafina
  • The Green Man and the French Horn
  • Les Deux Salons (pre-/post-theatre discount menu available)
  • Dishoom

Quick eats:

  • Shake Shack
  • Snog (froyo)
  • Chipotle
  • Honest Burger

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