The new production, at the Noel Coward Theatre, follows young playwright Will (played by the dashing Tom Bateman) as he struggles to complete his latest piece – working title ‘Romeo and Ethel, Daughter of the Pirate King’! Meanwhile, the beautiful Viola De Lessops (Lucy Briggs-Owen) lives a life of luxury…and boredom. A theatre-fan, she dreams of becoming an actor, and hatches a plan to disguise herself as a man to audition.
Inspired by the works of Shakespeare, this fun frolic of a production is packed with in-jokes and references to famous plays, as well as recurring themes – gender swapping, mistaken identity and the path of true love never running smoothly. The love story between Will and Viola is echoed as the playwright creates Romeo and Juliet, and as the play reaches its conclusion it becomes clear that happy endings aren’t always possible.
It moves along at a decent pace, and you don’t need to be a literature buff to follow the plot. It seems true to the film too (which you may remember won Gwyneth Paltrow an Oscar), and as such isn’t suitable for younger children because of its sexual references.
Featuring a multi-layered set, ingeniously used to make us as the audience swap between front of house, and backstage perspectives, an enormous ensemble cast and fabulous live musicians, it’s a lavish, no-expenses-spared show that will make you laugh as frequently as it leaves a lump in your throat.
Oh, and a standing ovation for its fluffy canine star too!