"Shakespeare Inc." review 05/03/2010
The play tackles the famous Shakespearean authorship question, suggesting that the man from Stratford was not who wrote the plays. It's done here in a comical but nevertheless plausible way, with two Lord Stanley and Edward De Vere, two aristocrats who can't publish plays because of their high status, teaming with Christopher Marlowe and Mary Sydney to form the "Shakespeare Inc." of the title. The man from Stratford, William Shaksper (his change in name is a running gag), is here played as a clueless dolt the company use as a front to disguise their activities. Despite being a farce, this is still an important play and deserves a wide audience.
The set is a well-lit, mix of red and blue that is specific enough to convey the Elizabethan era without compromising the play's comedic qualities. Andy McQuade said he thought the script was closer in spirit to "Blackadder" and Ben Elton/Richard Curtis-penned sitcoms than Shakespeare, and this is exactly what is conveyed.
As ever, it's theatre and no two performances are ever quite the same. This was demonstrated to hilarious effect last night. The actors are brilliant and really embody their characters - a solid ensemble of performers. Mention however must be made of the brilliant Filip Krenus and Patrick James, playing Edward De Vere and Lord Stanley respectively. The latter in particular adlibs wonderfully in response to any stimulus - be it police sirens wailing outside the theatre, losing his shoe on-stage or even collapsing sets - "My God, the walls are falling down!"
After the darkness of their award-winning double-bill, this is a welcome change of pace for Second Skin Theatre and a well-directed comic tale of jealousy and intrigue.