“Comedy, love – and a bit with a dog. That’s what they want,” declares Thomas Henslowe, the debt-ridden theatre manager in Shakespeare in Love.
We’ll come to the love in a moment. But first things first. Not since the chihuahua in the musical of Legally Blonde has there been a more captivating canine cameo in the West End than that now being turned in by the Labradoodle “Spot” (“Out, damned spot! out, I say!”) in this joyous stage adaptation of the Oscar-laden 1997 movie.
Spot is used sparingly and starts off, truth to tell, as a bit of a dope. But Lee Hall’s very canny overhaul of the celebrated Tom Stoppard/Marc Norman script gives Spot the chance to turn up trumps at a crucial juncture (Lassie, eat your heart out) and it’s deliciously funny and absurd and affecting and entirely of a piece with the irresistible spirit of this show.
Screen to stage transfers are so frequent and mostly catchpenny and cynical that the prospect of yet another tends to fill a critic’s heart with dread. But here there’s the elating sense that the material – with its rivalry between two public playhouses echoing the feud between the Montagues and Capulets – is revelling in it natural element in the theatre.
, Noel Coward Theatre
, Shakespeare in Love