After nearly two decades of touring shows, usually including a Shakespeare play, Heartbreak Productions have taken a sideways step this summer with what could loosely be called a compilation of some of the Bard’s best romantic bits.
But that’s really selling short the play Love in Shakespeare, which is every bit a “real” play and a proper evening’s entertainment in its own right. The fact that Will lends a helping hand with some of the scenes is simply an added bonus.
Writer Phil Hemming has created a witty, charming piece of theatre that borrows some pertinent moments from a variety of Shakespearean texts – A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Winter’s Tale and Othello among them. These he weaves into a contemporary tale of a pub’s “Anything Goes” fun night in a fashion that is both clever and, at times, highly amusing.
The central plot tells of a stranger, Christopher, who wanders into the Shakespeare Arms in the middle of this fundraiser for a new pool table, and proceeds to spread some theatrical fairydust from his mysterious briefcase. Thus elderly couple Stan and Margaret are bewilderingly transformed into Romeo and Juliet, while landlady Kerry finds herself doing a turn as French Queen Katherine from Henry V.
Along the way, Christopher gradually reveals his own tangled love life and sparks controversy among the locals with his magical manipulations. Oh, and for good measure there’s a sublime version of I Heard It Through the Grapevine… rendered in mime.
The five-strong cast are necessarily energetic, adaptable and sassy, with Paul Billing beautifully grumpy as landlord Vince and Emma Burn showing enormous versatility in a host of supporting roles. Director Maddy Kerr keeps the whole rollicking souffle moving swiftly along, and the cool of our non-existent summer evening is never allowed to suck the warmth out of the night’s entertainment.