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Review: Books, Theatre, Albums, Movies and Gigs

I Am Shakespeare

Playhouse, Liverpool
October 9 – October 13

Author: Mark Rylance
Director: Mark Rylance  & Matthew Warchus
Producer: The Chichester Festival
Cast includes:  Mark Rylance, Sean Foley, Colin Hurley, Alex Hassell,
Roddy Maude-Roxby, Sam Parks, Juliet Rylance.
Running time: 2 hrs 45 mins

Image: I Am Shakespeare Promo

Everyman Liverpool Playhouse official websiteOn a dark and stormy night in a garage in Kent, Frank Charlton – a schoolteacher –prepares for the daily broadcast of his subversive internet show, Who’s There, before literally “tens of people” during which Frank continues to explore the obsession that cost him a promising academic career – daring to question the authorship of the Shakespeare plays. When, that is, he can dodge the ‘helpful’ attentions of his ex pop-star neighbour Barry.  Today, however, via the dramatic interaction of a lightning storm and the collective unconscious of the world-wide-web, Frank finds himself confronted with the real William Shakespeare… and the real Francis Bacon… then Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford… and finally the real Mary Sidney. Can Frank take advantage of this historic opportunity...without getting arrested or murdering Barry first?

Image: Colin Hurley (William Shakespeare), Mark Rylance (Frank Charlton) credit Alastair MuirTo put it into a nutshell, this is superb with outstanding performances coming from not only the highly acclaimed Rylance himself, but also Sean Foley as Brian and, most notable of all, Juliet Rylance in the role of Mary, who oozes Emma Thompson-esque confidence with every nuance. As a sozzled bard, Colin Hurley is exemplary whilst the aloof and angst riddled de Vere is carried off wonderfully by Mark Hassel, which mirrors brilliantly the academia laden portrayal of Francis Bacon by Roddy Maude-Roxby – and with a name like that, what other part could he possibly play? – who dodders around extolling the virtues of enjoying the plays for what they are, rather than of what they are thought to be. Sam Parks, too, in the more minor yet nonetheless important role of Sergeant Freeman, delivers with excellence an enthusiastic copper who delights in the type of methodical lateral thinking that would make Colombo proud.

Part debate, part pantomime and, mostly, just riotous fun, I Am Shakespeare is a work of theatrical genius that cannot fail to captivate, as the audience becomes embroiled in the authenticity argument at first hand … literally … before being sent into the night with alien thoughts in their minds and a hearty lightness in their soul.

Magical stuff of which Shakespeare himself would be justly proud though, possibly, incapable of writing.

Everyman Liverpool Playhouse official website



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“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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