theSpace on the Mile, Edinburgh (Venue 39) – until 26 August 2017
Guest reviewer: Hugh Simpson
Storyboard Theatre’s The Shakespeares – Scenes from a Marriage goes over the well-trodden ground of the private life of that writer from Stratford. Even if nothing new surfaces, there is enough interesting acting to hold the attention.
Despite (or probably because of) the almost complete lack of hard evidence about his personal life, writers seem constantly drawn to portraying Shakespeare the man. Constant rehashing of the matter of the ‘second-best bed’ is a little tedious unless it is done as elegantly as Philip Whitchurch’s recent Shakespeare, His Wife, and The Dog.
This script, by Donna Soto-Morettini (who also directs with aplomb) is a patchwork effort of genuine Shakespeare and original material. Always accomplished, it is rarely truly fascinating, with a very Will cross-dressing plot towards the end being the most diverting section.
One problem is that Shakespeare is often presented as unknowable, untouchable and able to peer into the deepest recesses of people’s hearts. Unless you go down the iconoclastic route of the Horrible Histories’ team’s Bill, that is difficult to portray on stage. James Boal has a good stab, however, and if his tortured young man unable to resist the siren call of the theatre comes across more like an angsty teenager at times, there is at least some emotional complexity to him.
Grace Gilbert’s Anne Hathaway has considerable dignity and poise, even if we never quite believe in the great love she has for Shakespeare.
Much of the first half of the play deals with ‘Anne Whateley’ the figure who may or may not have existed, and may or may not have been engaged to Shakespeare, and has excited writers’ interest before. However, once she has been introduced, little of note is done with her here, despite Tegan Gourlay’s attempts to give the character life.
Those members of the cast who have more than one role do show real skill and versatility. Michael Brown’s choleric actor-manager is very good, while Rebecca Forsyth is extremely impressive in three contrasting roles.
Rachel Robertson, as Launce, the boy player, turns in a compelling performance. The role also seems to have the most truthful writing in the play, and the suspicion is that a whole play about Launce – with Shakespeare a more peripheral figure – would have been far more interesting.
That, however, is not the play we have got. This one is a serviceable if uninspiring piece that is well acted.
Running time 1 hour 10 minutes (no interval)
theSpace on the Mile, 80 High Street, EH1 1TH (Venue 39)
Sunday 6 – Saturday 26 August 2017
Even dates only at 2.20pm
Book tickets on the Fringe website: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/shakespeares-scenes-from-a-marriage
Company Facebook: @StoryboardTheatre