Shakespeare the Man From Stratford (4 stars)

This article is from 2010

Shakespeare the Man From Stratford

Spellbinding mix of thundering speeches and historical storytelling

Simon Callow’s Fringe show is a magnificent three-course banquet of storytelling that will prove irresistible to anyone with a passing interest in Shakespeare. Writer Jonathan Bate builds a biography of the Bard told around extracts from his works, moving through his early days as apprentice glove-maker to his ascendance as the most lauded playwright of his (or any) age.

Callow’s performance is flawless, demonstrating how he earned his stripes as a great classical theatre actor. But Shakespeare is the undisputed star of this piece, Callow wisely standing aside and letting the words speak for themselves. His delivery has the effortless intimacy of a fireside chat; you forget that he’s actually speaking from a script. By the end the audience is spellbound.

Thundering speeches aplenty (by God, can the man project) and juicy historical storytelling sit alongside chameleonic turns including a brilliant rendering of the clown in The Two Gentlemen of Verona (student theatre companies take note: this is how you modernise Shakespeare). One reservation might be that those without a fairly solid grounding in Shakespeariana could get a bit lost, but overall, it’s an astonishing performance.

Assembly Hall, 623 3030, until 30 Aug (not 23), 2.30pm, £20–£22 (£18–£20).

Simon Callow in Shakespeare the Man from Stratford

  • 4 stars

In a magical tour de force, Simon Callow, one of Britain's greatest actors, tracks down the real man behind William Shakespeare, the world's greatest writer, bringing to life both the man and the unforgettable characters - lovers, kings, soldiers and clowns - who have since conquered the world's stages. Ages: U

Shakespeare - The Man From Stratford

  • 4 stars

Simon Callow stars in Jonathan Bate's comedy about the life of the Bard and a selection of the many characters he created. Directed by Tom Cairns.