Shakespeare in Love offers fabulous final flourish at Chichester Festival Theatre

Shakespeare in Love
Shakespeare in Love

REVIEW: Shakespeare in Love, Chichester Festival Theatre, until November 24.

Shakespeare in Love, 20 years ago, was a once in a generation film which combined a remarkable lightness of touch with genuine poignancy; great wit with endless invention. The stage play was never going to scale those heights, and indeed it doesn’t. But the final half an hour, after passages which seem a touch heavy going, is terrific, pulling it all together very nicely under Phillip Breen’s direction. The piece ends dazzlingly as the Shakespeare/Viola love affair merges with the Romeo/Juliet story which Shakespeare In Love so cleverly shows emerging.

Pierro Niel-Mee is wisely Joseph Fiennes-like as Shakespeare and Imogen Daines is an engaging and appealing Viola. Between them they have a fluency and a naturalness which are the highlight on a night of love rivalries, acting rivalries and playwriting rivalries – the imagined story of The Bard’s literary unblocking.

Maybe it’s rose-tinted specs, but in memory the film skipped along with a delicacy the play possibly needs to find more of, but it’s a production which sparkles best towards the end - and that’s certainly the right way round. But it’s yet another show at the CFT which over-uses the revolve. There’s nothing wondrous or even clever about actors going round and round before our eyes. In fact, it’s rather tedious.

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