1616, Attic Theatre, Lazy Cow
While the resident Tread the Boards company is away performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival a guest company, Trans-Atlantyk, is performing a one man show, 1616, at the Attic Theatre. Written by Anne Dixie and Gareth Somers and set in 1616, the year of William Shakespeareâ€™s death, it presents Shakespeareâ€™s reminiscence of his life and career. Framed by end of Shakespeareâ€™s life, it concentrates on two key years, 1593 and 1603. The play is carefully researched, drawing material from fact, conjecture, heresay, myth, legend and with a little speculative make-believe in order to provide what the flyer calls â€˜his deepest loves and erotic adventuresâ€™.
The minimalist set is placed against a black curtain backdrop in order to make Gareth Somersâ€™s Shakespeare the sustained focus. Some of the set objects are metaphorical. The table (with its unevenly cut legs) is about to totter; the bench is in a state of half collapse; the doorâ€™s lock hangs on a string. Others are functional. One is puzzling. I had no idea what the Junoesque portrait of a white woman against the stage right wall was for. The wooden pail is there just for a blocking gag. But the audienceâ€™s focus is wholly on Shakespeare. The lighting is simple and effective, providing some changes of mood and varying visual intensity. Somersâ€™s movement provides visual variety, well directed by Lucyna Hunter.
The thread of Shakespeare meeting up with his friend Augustine Phillips provides some coherence to the narrative and counters the idea that Shakespeare is now alone in the world, surrounded only by distractions that he no longer has time for (his wife Anne, his daughter Judith, her despised husband Thomas Quiney, even, one suspects, his daughter Susannah and her daughter Elizabeth).
Shakespeare is presented as pining for dead friends, and, at the end, expressing some guilt for his infidelities, with the surprise awareness that he is guilty for having has affairs with women and men (I thought the conjecture about Southampton unlikely) and despite his fantasy that Anne had an affair with his brother Gilbert it is probably a fantasy as he comments on her â€˜dutyâ€™ to him at the end.
What do we learn about Shakespeare the man? Not a great deal, but Somersâ€™s skilled movement and delivery make us pay attention to him and we do learn about the world which he inhabited.
The play is worth seeing. Unfortunately the flyers omit the box office telephone: 07952 819557.