For all their warnings, Shakespeare’s Will doesn’t seem to be nearly as delicate a performance as the Globe Theatre would have you believe.
Going into the theatre, there were constant warnings. This is a one-person show, so drinks and anything else aren’t allowed, the logic being that any disturbance could really throw the show off. During the announcements before the play started, the fellow even offered to come up and take the drinks from you if you forgot and brought them into the theatre.
That didn’t stop a few slip-ups from happening. One person’s cell phone rang out three separate times during the first 10 minutes or so of the play, and a woman in the front row dropped something, a mint or a coin or something, directly in front of actress Seanna McKenna. The look on the audience member’s face was one of just pure shock at what she’d done and not knowing what to do next.
Never once did it feel like McKenna might break. Her strength as a performer never left any doubt that this play might leave its course, or even falter, from being wholly engaging and entertaining. It’s a feat that Anne Hathaway, wife of William Shakespeare and protagonist of this play, would no doubt admire.
Identifying McKenna and Hathaway is a super simple way of going about this, but such is the power of her portrayal. Hathaway is a fascinating and complex character. As Shakespeare’s Will shifts from the day of Shakespeare’s funeral to times throughout Hathaway’s life. Consequently, the character’s emotions oscillate from the joys of love, life, and motherhood to all the lows that can be tied in with that.
The shifts are so seamless that you might not even notice when they happen, so natural that it’s easy to get lost in the play. In an unbroken, 80-minute performance, McKenna opens Hathaway up, to make a portrait with the broader implications on the cost to an artist’s life, but also one that’s deeply intimate and personal.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the set, as this is always an area where the Globe excels. It seems simple at first, but the lighting, of a variety and quality that I can seldom remember having seen there, really makes it great. That McKenna so masterfully interacts with such an intricate setup is yet another credit to her talent.
Shakespeare’s Will plays through to March 13. Go to the Globe Theatre’s website for ticket information.