Writer: Sebastian Michael
Director: Ros Philips
Reviewer: Elizabeth Vile
Written to coincide with the 450th anniversary of William Shakespeare, The Sonneteer explores a selection of Shakespeare’s sonnets and speculates about the reasons behind the writing of them in an inventive and passionate way. This production also reinforces Shakespeare’s continuing relevance to society today.
This two-hander mixes the present day relationship between a lecturer and his student with the relationship between William Shakespeare and the young Earl of Southampton in an attempt to explore Shakespeare on an academic and emotional level. Why did he write his sonnets? What was going on in his life to make him write about the subjects he did?
Although we may never know the answers to these questions this production imaginatively written by Sebastian Michael and directed in an innovative way by Ros Philips gives the audience plenty of food for thought. The choice to have two actors playing the four parts is an interesting one that at times challenges the audience’s powers of understanding. The beginning it’s difficult to work out who the characters are as the change between them is not always clear enough, but this does improve as the piece progresses.
Tom Medcalf as the student and Henry, Earl of Southampton, has created two contrasting characters that although not always likeable engage the audience and allow them to feel sympathy for the situations the two young men find themselves in. Medcalf’s diction and commitment to these rôles should also be commended; he performes the physical elements of the piece particularly well. Sebastian Michael also confidently takes on the dual rôle of lecturer and William Shakespeare although his performance can benefit from having a clearer and stronger difference between the two characters.
Overall The Sonneteer is an original and innovative piece that explores one of the lesser known parts of Shakespeare’s life. The way that speech blends into the sonnets is very effective and makes the sonnets much more accessible to an audience and Philips’ detailed direction gave us plenty to watch.
This production will be at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this summer and if the life and loves of Shakespeare is of interest to you then this reviewer suggests you take a look, you might be surprised at what you see!
The Sonneteer runs at Landor Theatre till 19th July 2014
Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Greenside@Nicolson Square from 1s – 23rd August 2014.