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Here’s a play drawn from a film drawn from a play drawn from an Italian tale …the layers are almost as complex as those in the famously gender-confused Twelfth Night. Many theatregoers will remember the award-winning 1998 film in which Joseph Fiennes played a young Shakespeare with writer’s block and Gwyneth Paltrow played the aristocratic would-be actress who disguises herself as a boy to get on to the stage and inspires Shakespeare to write one of his most famous works, Romeo and Juliet.
For its arrival on stage, Lee (Billy Elliot) Hall has adapted afresh the script written by Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman for the film, and the production is staged by the ingenious theatre director Declan Donnellan and designed by Nick Ormerod. There is a serious tranche of theatrical pedigree here, then, well equipped to transform a pleasing, clever, witty film into a successful play that takes you back to Shakespeare’s England and celebrates theatre itself. Tom Bateman plays Shakespeare with Lucy Briggs-Owen as the lovely Viola – who, at the end of the story, becomes the inspiration for Twelfth Night.
shakespeareinlove.com, 0844 482 5141, to October 25
Photograph: Johan Persson