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Wednesday, 23 July 2008

The Love Affairs of There Reigns Love


There Reigns Love
Devised and performed by Simon Callow
Commissioned and premiered by the Stratford Shakespeare Festival
Directed by Michael Langham

There are four love affairs present in Simon Callow’s one-man entertainment called There Reign’s Love.

The first love affair is that of a poet and a beautiful young man to whom he writes a great number of the poems about love and beauty. The second is that of the poet and his “Dark Lady of the Sonnets”; the third is the affair that occurs between that same dark lady and the beautiful young man. Those affairs form the story possibly hidden in the background of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets, revealed most clearly when they are reordered as proposed by a psychoanalyst by the name of John Padel.

The fourth love affair present is that of Simon Callow’s evident love of Shakespeare’s poetry, and the idea that in this reordering – perhaps the order in which they were actually written - the sonnets appear to be autobiographical in nature, thus perhaps revealing an intimate bit of the enigmatic Bard’s life. It is an intriguing idea - tantalizing even - and although Mr. Callow cautions the audience to treat everything he says with the utmost suspicion, his enthusiasm is infectious, and his ‘performance’ of most (but not all) of the sonnets brings alive those with which we are all familiar, and more importantly, makes sense and illuminates those that are less known.

Mr. Callow has invited patrons to sit on the stage during his performance, so do not be surprised to see audience members lounging comfortably on cushions downstage while Mr. Callow appears upstage. (The only quibble one may have with this production is that this obvious desire for intimacy with the audience may have been better suited for the cozy Studio Theatre; but then, Mr. Callow would not have had use of Tanya Moiseiwitch’s lovely balcony, incorporated as it is at the Tom Patterson Theatre into Charlotte Dean’s warm set.). Mr. Callow explains Mr. Padel’s theory and then begins to animate the sonnets: at first subtle movements and steady voice, growing more enlivened as the story heats up. All the while Mr. Callow’s beautiful, precise diction gives no doubt for his passion for speaking the sonnets; it shines through with each crisp word.


While it may feel like more of a lecture than a performance in places, I’ll say this: if we had all had teachers like Simon Callow, not only would we have learned a hell of a lot more, but we would never dream of yawning at the Sonnets and poetry in general ever again. Grab your chance to see this once-in-a-lifetime production with one of the foremost Shakespearean actors in the English-speaking world before it ends on August 3rd.

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