"Speculation on Shakespeare's Private Life"
by Paul Ackroyd for remotegoat on 29/10/17

Shakespeare's marriage is a fruitful source of speculation by scholars and Shakespeare pundits because there is so little recorded and it raises a number of intriguing questions. Why was the name of his wife recorded firstly as Anne Whateley and then as Anne Hathaway in the parish registers? Was Will a reluctant husband having got Anne pregnant before marriage? Why did he never bring his wife and family to London? How often did he visit them in Stratford? Did he have other liaisons in London? The production of Scenes from a Marriage by Storyboard theatre currently playing at the Rose Theatre Bankside provides possible answers to some of those questions.

In this version the two Annes are assumed as separate people but Will professes devotion and love to both. The plot follows the credible but unproven theory that he was recruited by a travelling band of actors in need of a replacement and thereby made his way to the theatrical world of London. Thereafter the plot becomes much more speculative with a dalliance with a titled lady and a deception by both Annes to uncover why he seemed so distant from his family responsibilities in Stratford.

The text written and adapted by Donna Soto- Morettini was in a form of Shakespearean language which was both flowing and pleasant to listen to. There were recognisable phrases from the Canon plus a clear parallel with scenes from Twelfth Night.The cast of six delivered strong performances (they have recently honed their skills with the same production on the Edinburgh fringe) with substantial doubling including some cross-dressing which was initially a little confusing. The cast were of an age so some suspension of disbelief was necessary in scenes with different generations . The costuming was Elizabethan. The production was played on a completely bare stage in the Rose Theatre's limited playing area in the archaeological site of the original Rose where Shakespeare himself would probably have stood 400 years ago. The cast brought on what little furniture they needed for each scene. Unfortunately some of this was clearly of modern design which rather jarred with the Elizabethan theme. In a play which is called Scenes From a Marriage it is only reasonable to accept that there would be a degree of discontinuity in the action but there were rather too many scenes and a form of presentation which did not mean the cast moving on and off stage quite so frequently would have helped the action to flow.

My overall feeling on leaving the theatre was one of disappointment at opportunities missed; there was really not enough substance in the text to satisfy. There is plenty in the still to be uncovered life of this great playwright to fill many a future play.

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