The Man From Stratford: Being Shakespeare

Written by Jonathan Bate
Directed by Tom Cairns
Liverpool Playhouse (16th-19th June 2010)

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

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.

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