Man From Stratford: Being Shakespeare
Written by Jonathan Bate
Directed by Tom Cairns
(16th-19th June 2010)
This was a hot performance by Simon Callow in more ways than one. On
a very warm evening, his face was glistening in sweat throughout most
of his ninety minutes on stage - the Playhouse does not have any air conditioning
- but he turned in a virtuoso performance detailing the life and work
of Shakespeare, despite the uncomfortable conditions.
With a minimum of stage props, and dressed in contemporary clothing,
Callow - one of the greatest stage actors of our time - kept the audience
enraptured, often wittily describing the seven ages of the Bard's existence.
The one-man show never descended into a pseudo lecture, despite being
penned by academic Jonathan Bate, one of the leading experts on Shakespeare,
with a profusion of illuminating examples of his greatest lines from his
staggering catalogue of epic plays.
A master of writing about tragedy, Shakespeare himself suffered extreme
pain in his life, for example losing his son Hamnet at the age of ten,
to the ravages of bubonic plague.
This anecdote - along with many others delivered by Callow - kept alive
the human side of Shakespeare. He was a supreme playwright but also a
man who suffered pain and joy in life, just like you and I.