Shakespeare in Love at Chichester Festival Theatre - review

Shakespeare in Love. Photo: Pete Le May
Shakespeare in Love. Photo: Pete Le May

Just like one of the Bard’s great dramas, Shakespeare in Love is a romp of love, tragedy, mistaken identity, and bawdy humour with just enough historical fact to give it the semblance of authenticity.

But don’t go along hoping for some rare insight into the life of the nation’s greatest playwright.

This is every bit a literary conceit as Romeo and Juliet - the play whose creation lies at the heart of this drama and which echoes through the plot.

Inevitably the play lives in the shadow of the iconic film from which it was born - the 1998 screen masterpiece starring Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow scooped nearly as many accolades as it did cash at the box office.

This is not in the same league.

But the reality of a stage does give it an earthiness of which Shakespeare would have approved and which cinema can never endow. Pierro Niel-Mee has a genuine cheeky charm as the great writer and cuts a dashing and charismatic figure - neatly matched by his love Viola de Lesseps (Imogen Daines).

As a touring production it sits neatly into a weekly slot in the Chichester winter season - and anything that helps to remind fresh generations of the sheer beauty of the Shakespearean turn of phrase must be applauded if only for that.

Shakespeare in Love, Chichester Festival Theatre, until Saturday November 24.