Last week saw the full return of Cranleigh theatre audiences and what a return it was. Family, friends, OCs and current Cranleighans were all welcomed back into the Speech Hall to watch Lee Hall’s Shakespeare in Love directed by Miss Dominique Chapman. The show was an absolute treat of an evening of theatre and really encapsulated the greatness of Cranleigh drama.
The immaculate stage set the tone of high-quality theatre and complimented the acting. Alongside great direction, this allowed the actors to bring the story to life with space for the audience to feel each location from ball to rehearsal room to pub. Particular praise must go to each moment the doors upstage opened peeking into the Vivian Cox Theatre and allowed the audience to watch both Queen Elizabeth I & Shakespeare’s audience to watch each show. Truly an epic use of both of Cranleigh’s theatre venues. So, a huge congratulations to Miss Chapman and Theatre Manager, Mr Peter Humphreys. With all this in mind congratulations also to Mr Harry Armytage, Lighting Designer, for enhancing the set and amplifying the show with some quality lighting making each moment of the show even more captivating. Similarly, to Ms Isobel Nicholson who’s costume design, similar to the set, brought the show to full bloom. The nod to our own time, through the ensembles and particularly Queen Elizabeth I’s costume, enabled us to feel the spectacle of the show’s world from our own gaze.
It was a show full of incredibly talented emerging actors. The opening scene was a showcase where each actor brought sheer energy on stage without any real dialogue. They moved themselves and the props towards Will Shakespeare surrounded him and helped physically show both the suspense and the beauty of Shakespeare’s work. In fact in all the movement sequences – from the epic fight scene within the ‘rehearsal room’ to the ballroom dance to the interludes of moving props and changing scenes – each actor not only stayed in role but had such a focus that carried the audience’s focus too. Huge praise to the choreography and similarly well done to the whole.
Jacob B. as Shakespeare was excellent, bringing passion, confidence, vulnerability, wit and a genuine level of honesty to the role. There wasn’t a moment you didn’t believe him. Through both his physical performance and powerful voice it was a pleasure to watch such a strong lead performance on the Cranleigh stage. Similarly, Cicely H. as Viola De Lesseps was a natural performer; executing moments of sensitivity and emotion whilst also igniting fire within. It was a pleasure to watch such talented leads on stage.
There were also some wonderful supporting performances, including the role of Kit Marlowe performed by Max C. His energy onstage was electric and his performance often brought the comedy to this rom com. From his physicalisation to vocal projection to even the moments Max didn’t have dialogue yet still engaged onstage with his eyes, he brought the wit of the play to life and enabled the audience to be fully drawn into the fun and joy of the show. Similarly huge praise to Charlie P. (as Richard Burbage/Fight Captain), Felix W. (as Fennyman), Tyler B. (as Lord Wessex), Charlie M. (as Henslowe), Deshawn G. (as Sir Robert de Lesseps/Burbage’s Heavy), George N. (as Tilney, Master of the Revels/ Burbage’s Heavy 2), Benjy B. (as Ralph/Nurse) and Stirling S. (as Sam/Juliet) who also stood out for their comedic power on stage and top quality performance.
Whilst the show itself is quite dominated with a lot of male characters, a huge congratulations to both Keira R. as ‘Queen Elizabeth I’ and Raya A. as ‘Nurse’. Each moment Keira was onstage you really couldn’t take your eyes off her; her physical presence as queen and her powerful booming voice was brilliant; Keira simply smashed this role. Similarly, Raya’s performance was captivating each moment she too was on stage, similarly elevating the story whilst also demonstrating her sheer talent as an actress.
The other cast members were all genuinely fantastic too: Rufus B. (as Ned Alleyn), Ben J. (as Webster), Anna P. (as Mistress Quickly/Molly), Anna W. (as Kate), Joel P-P. (as Nol Benvolio), James R. (as Adam/Gregory), Zubin C. (as Robin/Tybalt), Toby A. (as Wabash/Chorus), Hamish R. (as Peter/Petruchio), Halle W. (Ensemble), Emma C. (Ensemble), Nicola O. (Ensemble), Sophie P-T. (Ensemble) and Ella-Grace G. (Ensemble). It says a lot about a performance when the actors with fewer lines bring the same energy and passion into their roles as the performers with heavier amounts of dialogue. The show truly wouldn’t have been half as great without you all because you enabled the atmosphere of the piece to be sustained and you allowed Chapman’s fantastic interpretation of the show to be imagined and visualised.
Overall you could feel the genuine enjoyment of all the Cranleigh performers onstage. And, whilst the effort and standard of theatre is mind blowing, Shakespeare In Love was so enjoyable because of the more fun ensemble scenes or moments where you could see the performers just enjoying the play, like the final dance at the end of the show when the whole cast are spinning and holding hands or when someone was trying not to laugh at their mate zoning out on stage. From the young talent to the quality of design to the Cranleighans enjoying themselves on stage to the fantastic direction and storytelling; it’s everything you’d want from theatre. Miss Chapman you have hit the nail on the head with bringing back a full Cranleigh audience to watch Shakespeare In Love. You brought both joy and great quality theatre back to the Speech Hall. So, a huge thank you and congratulations to you and your fabulous Shakespeare In Love team for such an enjoyable evening.