'The Big Secret Live - I Am Shakespeare - Webcam Daytime Chatroom Show!'
'I am Shakespeare' is the first play written by acclaimed actor and director Sir Mark Rylance. It’s an exuberant and comic exploration of the Shakespeare authorship debate. The action takes place on one night in the garage of geeky teacher Frank Charlton, from where he runs an internet chat-room show called ‘Who’s There?’. On the night in question he asks his international audience “Who really wrote the plays of William Shakespeare?”. By the power of stormy weather and the internet, various individuals who claim authorship turn up from the past, with hilarious consequences.
“Witty, gloriously funny and wonderfully well-written . . . .the best thing I have seen in years” The Stage
This amateur production of 'I AM SHAKESPEARE' is presented by arrangement with Nick Hern Books.
Review by Chris Arnot
You only have to compare and contrast Edward II with Richard II to know that Christopher Marlowe was not William Shakespeare. So was he really Francis Bacon or the Earl of Oxford? Or Ben Jonson, or Uncle Tom Cobblers?
Many an intellectual and historian has queried how a grammar-school educated glover’s son from the Midlands could have spun such sublime words with perception and profundity. After all, he didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge after attending a top public school.
Nor did Leonardo da Vinci or Ludwig von Beethoven. One was the illegitimate son of a peasant woman and the other battled with severe deafness. Genius is inexplicable. It can even pop up in a small town in the middle of “this earth, this realm, this England”.
But, hey, here comes Sir Mark Rylance esteemed Shakespearean actor and the first artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe. And evidently he’s querying that assumption. At some length, it must be said.
'I Am Shakespeare' is a somewhat wordy work with rather too many lines but, admittedly, with some good ones among them. Had he been able to drop in on the first night at the Criterion, I suspect that Rylance might have been impressed by the production.
Under Anne-marie Greene’s direction, cast and crew gave it everything it was worth. And more.
Jon Elves climbed right inside the head of English teacher Frank Charlton, a geekish obsessive strutting around his garage to project his doubts about Shakespeare’s true origins through a website chat show.
We were at the interaction of the internet and the quill, and before long the garage was playing host to some of the contenders for the title of “the real Bard”.
Bacon, yes. Oxford, yes – a thrustingly bombastic appearance by Pete Meredith. At one point he and Shakespeare had each other by the throat. Got a bit “ruff”, you might say.
“Shakspar”, as he used to sign himself, was nicely downplayed by Alan Fenn with an accent slightly closer to Stratfordian than the Brummie blurted out by Harry Enfield as the playwright’s father in Upstart Crow.
And Kelly Davidson seductively suggested as Lady Mary Sidney that she was really the dark lady who wrote the sonnets. Not to mention the plays, at a time when women weren’t allowed on stage.
On and off-stage in the 21st century, there was plenty of inter-action between the cast and the audience – not least through digital technology. Towards the end we were invited to use our mobile phones to vote on whom we thought really wrote the works of “Shakspar”.
Mine would have taken too long to switch back on. But, for what it’s worth, Will’s quill would have had my vote.
Review by Peter McGarry
Review by Nick Le Mesurier
Given all the fuss about who wrote Shakespeare’s plays it’s not surprising that the actual figures themselves might want a say. And get one in Mark Rylance’s witty play ‘I Am Shakespeare’.