Winner of seven 1999 Academy Awards, including best original screenplay for Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman, Shakespeare in Loveis an ode to theatre. So why it took 15 years to reach the stage is “a mystery”, as the real-life character of Philip Henslowe often says. Five years later, Lee Hall’s adaptation has finally made its way to Melbourne, in this lavish, well-cast production that will swell theatre-lovers’ hearts with joy.

Shakespeare in Love Michael Wahr in Melbourne Theatre Company’s  Shakespeare in Love. Photo © Jeff Busby

The script is a close adaptation of the film, with a young Will Shakespeare struggling to write his new play, Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter. The pressure is on – not just for him, but seemingly everyone in London’s nascent theatre scene, including playhouse owner Henslowe and rival Richard Burbage, as ego, censorship and scarce funds build an atmosphere of creative chaos. Will meets heiress Viola de Lesseps, who dresses as a boy in order to tread the boards. During rehearsals for his evolving play, he discovers her true identity and their forbidden love inspires what becomes Romeo and Juliet.

Most of Shakespeare in Love’s many jokes...

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